Hiring your first VP of Sales? Read this first.

by Patrick Thorp - March 2, 2021

The VP of Sales can be a very costly hiring mistake to any startup. Imagine not only the salary but the other associated costs like recruiter fees, NI, software licensing, commission, etc. If you get it wrong, it can cost your company dearly, but if you get it right, they can double your revenue in 6 months.

I’m choosing to focus on the latter and what tactics you can use to stack the deck more in your favour.

Typically, there are 5 types of VP:

  • Mentors: They are charismatic and measure their success by exceeding revenue goals and fostering success. They are hands-off and firmly believe in the consultative selling approach.
  • Expressives: They are charming and gregarious individuals who have a natural ability to put people at ease. They favour big deal closing and not mundane tasks.
  • Sergeants: Loyalty means everything to them. They are hard workers who are constantly worrying if their ‘troops’ are okay.
  • Overconfidents: They’re at the opposite end of the humility spectrum from Sergeants. They build a sales team of fighting gladiators who possess extraordinary willpower and mental toughness.
  • Micros: They are organised and methodical, and have a strong sense of responsibility to their company. They hire salespeople who they know will carry out their instructions to the letter.

Ask yourself, what type of person would fit in well with your team culturally? What type of personality do you think you really need?

Once you have figured this out, don’t get sucked into the idea that – because they have been a VP at Oracle, Salesforce, Adobe, etc. – they can work in startups. They will be used to much larger companies, budgets, support, brands upon which to lean, etc. All things considered, they are likely to get frustrated by the lack of support so you might part ways quite quickly.

Consider instead exactly what job you are trying to get done. Recruit and hire those people that have done that job with a company that is at the same stage as you. Are you building? Are you maintaining? Are you culling? If you are a startup, it is likely you are building; building the team, building product-market fit, building investor confidence, building a loyal customer base, etc. Look for people who have done the job that you want need doing before, and not just because they have been at a large enterprise as a VP.

Your VP should be paid well (on success) – consider Qualified Lead Velocity Rate (LVR, your growth in qualified leads MoM) as opposed to Pipeline. As an aside, consider targeting your LVR to be x% over MMR targets. One fundamental responsibility of your VP should be to hire and train sellers to sell themselves. Only a fraction of their time (20%) should go on closing deals.

Further Reading

Sales targets
James Ker-Reid
April 25, 2022

5 tips for hitting sales targets

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A London Unicorn
January 18, 2022

Tech Startups in London Shattered Records in 2021

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November 24, 2021

James Ker-Reid on WCIT Entrepreneurship Panel

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