Ready to grow? Make absolutely sure your VP of Sales has these skills first.

June 27, 2018

Bad sales hires are painfully expensive. But if there’s one hire you really don’t want to screw up, it’s your VP.

Take this founder as an example – they made a mishire at the VP level and churned him in less than 14 months. And it’s cost their business four quarters of performance, employee morale, and almost their entire BDR team too.

Sadly, this is a very common story for me to hear these days – including the effects it has on businesses.

But not just because I’m deep in the world of sales recruiting. If you haven’t seen’s latest research on how the average VP of Sales tenure has plummeted in the last 7 years, take a hard look at the data below.

It’s sobering, to say the least:


Why is this happening?

Well…it’s complicated. But if there’s anything that I see from my position as a 20-year veteran salesperson turned matchmaker, it’s usually a mismatch between your needs when you’re trying to grow and the skillset of the VP you have/hire.

To avoid being part of this trend, here’s the skills and qualities your VP must have to make sure you don’t get stuck on the proverbial hamster wheel when you’re ready to scale rapidly.

Make sure your VP believes what you believe.

“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

– Simon Sinek

I really can’t say it better than Simon Sinek. Hiring for shared beliefs is a massively powerful ally for finding talented people who are going to help your business grow. The difference it makes is stark (think 3x revenue growth), which is why it’s the number one thing we look for when we match candidates with opportunities here at ATP.

So what do you think is going to happen if your VP’s beliefs aren’t aligned with yours? How are they going to lead the charge to grow the business if they’re not on board with what you’re trying to achieve?

I’ve got to tell you, it usually doesn’t end well.

The truth is, people don’t buy what you sell, they buy why you sell it. But a lot of startups forget this applies to those you have on your team too. And it’s especially important for leaders to be aligned with this too, because they’re the ones setting the tone and culture of an organization.

I’m guessing you’ve worked on your “why” for your customers already on some level. But if you want to make sure you’re not going to be reeling from loss of a VP when you’re trying to massively scale the business, make absolutely sure their “why” matches yours too.

Make sure they have a proven track record as a coach.

If you’re trying to grow, it’s essential to do so in the correct fashion if you want it to last.

What I mean is, to make your life easier and to ramp quicker, you have to find lasting clients (ones that buy for years, not a quarter or two) to act as a foundation to grow. Otherwise you’ll be constantly chasing your tail trying to replace the business you lost.

And the way you do that is with a focus on quality.

This is where Gong’s research has another interesting insight. Salespeople are actually getting worse these days in large part because they’re not following through on the fundamentals of sales.

See for yourself:

Percent sales reps attaining quota

Which fundamentals? The ones that affect the quality of the relationship that is built!

Things like talk-to-listen ratio during sales conversations, which side note: Gong also found is a huge indicator of the likelihood that a salesperson would close a deal:

Speaker switches per minute

Speaker switches per minute 2

Coaching is the way you ensure your salespeople are improving the quality of the deals they’re executing. This is the thing that is also going to help you ramp up your revenue much quicker and have it last too! And you need a good VP to coach your people properly.

Make sure they create psychological safety for your sales team.

If you haven’t seen it, Google spent a lot of time and money studying psychological safety in 2012. They found this single factor was the thing that determined how productive a team would be.

If you’re not familiar with the term, psychological safety is “the shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.” Or the ability to be and express yourself without the fear of negative consequences on your reputation, status, or career.

Psychological Safety Net

Without this quality present, it’s going to be hard for your salespeople to stay creative when they’re out there finding the best solutions for your customers. And creativity is born from vulnerability.

Instead, they’ll be too busy trying to do what they think they’re supposed to do, which may or may not be correct, even if you’ve got a pretty solid go-to market strategy already. And ultimately this is going to drive up your cost of revenue…not something you want when you’re trying to scale.

Make sure they know how to hire well.

It’s been said that hiring is the most important skill a founder can ever have. I think that’s probably true for any hiring manager actually. But take it from me, a recruiter, hiring is a lot trickier than you think it is.

Especially if you want to get off the sales rep wheel of churn and start making headway on your growth goals.

After all, my goal as a recruiter isn’t to help you replace the people you keep losing (though a lot of recruiters don’t seem to care as long as they have a seat to put a warm body in). It’s to help you hire NEW people because you’re growing so fast you need more talented people to capitalize on the market!

But again, it’s the same thing with your revenue – you do that by executing on the first hires with high quality. Then you can build on a stronger foundation and ultimately ramp faster.

Final thoughts.

I’ll keep this really brief: don’t screw around with this. When you’re ready to scale, you’re in the big leagues. And you only get one shot at the market.

Build the right foundation with the right leader though and everything gets much, much easier.

Founder and CEO of Avenue Talent Partners

With more than $100MM in revenue sold, a LinkedIn Insider and Top Sales Voice, Founder, Strategic Advisor, and LP at Stage 2 Capital, Amy Volas is a sales fanatic turned entrepreneur. She was bitten by the startup bug many moons ago and couldn't imagine spending her time anywhere else. She created Avenue Talent Partners to help grow early-stage startups through some of their most valuable assets - executive revenue leaders.