Founders looking to scale their startups often hire a VP of Sales. The belief is that this new VP will spearhead the sales department, helping the startup grow while building the sales team. This is especially true for founders who don’t have a commercial background and want to get experience on board. But going straight for the VP hire might not always be the best approach.
Founders have too much knowledge to give
Even if you don’t have a commercial background, no one knows the business like you. Indeed, founders have too much knowledge to simply pass off in the early stages. A VP will need to understand the dynamics of the business, and no one can provide that information to your level.
The early stages are some of the most hectic, and the reality is that you need to be across all aspects of the business in some capacity. Relying on a VP to look after sales while you focus on other areas, such as product, might seem like a good idea, but it rarely yields the best scenario.
Not all VPs hang around
The average VP of Sales stays in the role for 11 months. It’s not exactly the long-term option you’d probably hoped for. Beyond that, the cost to your startup for someone who stays in the role for less than a year is high, taking up plenty of resources.
Plus, you need to go through the hiring process and spend time looking for the right people. But there’s no guarantee you’ll find a proper fit, even if the hire plans on staying in the role for the long term. It takes at least nine months to realise if you’ve hired someone capable of the role. By that point, you could have already made an expensive mistake.
You might give away your IP
Before you hire a VP of Sales, you should thoroughly understand what the role requires. Otherwise, you’re essentially hiring someone who will walk away with all your IP about how to make sales for your business.
Let’s say they land on a successful strategy for selling your service. If you’re not involved in that process as the founder, when the VP of Sales leaves (like the statistics suggest they will) they’re taking that knowledge out of the business. And you’re back to square one.
Many VP of Sales at startups in the Seed to Series A stage actually end up being too senior for what you need. They’re used to working in more established roles – hiring someone from a company like Google or Meta might look great on the CV, but how comfortable are they rolling their sleeves up and getting scrappy?
Instead, you need someone who hasn’t been promoted past the practical sales elements needed to succeed at your startup. Your VP of Sales will be experienced, but they shouldn’t have too much experience for what you need in the role.
So when do you hire a VP of Sales?
You should hire a VP of Sales when your business is a little further along its journey. When you know what works for the company in terms of sales, you have the right strategy and tools to succeed. At this point, it’s time to bring someone on board who can take what you’ve done so far and improve it.
But there’s still that little issue of you not having a commercial background. To solve that problem, it’s worth partnering with a sales consultancy. They will offer more firepower than a sole VP of Sales, helping you put a strategy in place to take the business forward.
A VP of Sales is necessary for any successful business, but a startup needs to learn to walk before it can run. For that reason, a VP of Sales shouldn’t be one of the first hires through the door. Be patient, bide your time, and when you’re ready, you can bring a VP into the fold who’s prepared to succeed.