Hiring your sales executive team is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a CEO. Of the various critical positions on that team, perhaps the most important one is the Vice President of Sales.
The VP of Sales is the person responsible for the sales team(s), business development, sales strategies, and sales training. This role has a direct impact on the overall success of your business. The right VP Sales can be the difference between a successful venture and a failed startup.
At Cowen Partners, we’ve successfully matched various organizations with new VP Sales. We have the requisite experience and knowledge to identify candidates who would be the right match for your company.
Just because a person has a VP of Sales title, it doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for your organization. There are various different versions of VP of Sales and each comes with a variety of skill sets.
The responsibilities and skills of a VP Sales differ depending on the nature of the business, its organizational structure, and revenue. Judging candidates by their title alone could easily lead to a mis-hire or overpay.
You have to look beyond the surface to know the kind of VP Sales your organization needs. To do that, you should focus on the core objectives they need to execute within 18-24 months. The right candidates should have accomplished similar objectives in previous jobs.
They should have worked with the same sales cycle and the same customer profile. Some of the different versions of a VP Sales include:
When your organization is still at $2-$5 million, you need a type of VP Sales called “the builder.” This VP Sales can take your business from where it’s at to at least $20 million. Now they may not be good with data, with systems and processes. However, they’ll meet your revenue targets.
This type of VP Sales probably won’t stay with your company for five to ten years. They’ll get frustrated the more process the company requires as it grows. At that stage, you’ll need someone with different skills.
If you’re already past the hyper-growth phase, you need a VP Sales that can stabilize your sales platform for the long haul ahead. That’s definitely not the “builder” type. What you need is a VP Sales that can put methodologies and systems around the sales process making the business scalable. That’s where “the scaler” comes in.
This type of VP Sales can come in when your company is at $20-$50 million and drive it up to $75-$100 million. They do this, not by grit and effort, but by focusing on customer retention and putting systems around the sales process.
If your company is already at $100 million, you need someone that can reliably produce revenue growth of 2 to 5 percent a year. This type of VP Sales is a high-level one that focuses on strategy and less on daily tactics.
Whatever the stage you’re at, you need to critically vet the candidates. The first step in the recruitment process is to identify and avoid potential hiring pitfalls. Some of the most common issues that organizations face when hiring VPs of Sales include the following:
Industry experience without strong sales management experience could result in issues when building a team. For instance, they may not know the appropriate scaling processes and systems needed to grow your business.
Similarly, an experienced sales leader without industry experience may struggle with being taken seriously in the market if the product is highly technical. As such, they may not gain the buy-in of your sales teams.
In that case, what’s the best course of action?
If you already have a sales team with industry knowledge, then you may not need a VP Sales with industry experience. Instead, you need one that knows how to build out and develop a team. They should be able to create processes and programs, as well as work with the product and marketing on messaging.
On the other hand, what if you don’t have any sales reps? Or the reps you have lack industry experience. In such cases, you may need to create a training program to educate them on the industry or hire a VP Sales with experience in that industry. The latter is the easier way to go as you’ll save some time and resources.
It’s not uncommon for CEOs to want to reward well-performing salespeople who have been with them for a while by promoting them to leadership. That way they retain their top talent, while also filling an immediate leadership gap.
The problem with doing this is that building a sales organization is radically different from being a good sales rep. The skillset required for both roles is worlds apart. It’s very unlikely that your best sales rep becomes a good sales leader.
Instead, the best course of action is to hire an external, proven sales leader. The candidate should fit into your current and future go-to-market (GTM) plans.
However, if you’re set on promoting your best sales rep, ensure that they sign up for sales management training. That way, they’re set up for success to take on their new role.
In your search for the right VP Sales, you may find someone who’s the perfect fit culturally for your company. However, they may not have the right experience or sales background. While a cultural fit is great, it can’t replace skill sets.
Hiring a person with a background in enterprise selling when your organization has an inbound high-velocity sales process is a recipe for disaster whether they fit with your executive team or not.
If the leader can talk the talk with product and marketing but can’t formulate a sales strategy to grow their team, that’s also a recipe for disaster.
So when hiring, you don’t want to index too heavily in culture. Doing so may lead to biased hiring and a monoculture that may end up being an issue down the road. Instead, you should have a scorecard while interviewing candidates. It’ll ensure that you don’t overlook gaps in skills.
The scorecard could contain culture as a component, but you should be specific about the cultural elements you want. That way, there’s consistency when vetting candidates.
The scorecard also ensures you align on how much importance you put on cultural elements versus skill set items.
It’s easy to get blinded by a great résumé. However, judging candidates solely by their résumés may lead to hiring the wrong VP and missing out on a great one.
Sure, the items on a résumé may be indicative of experience and intellect. However, a résumé only provides a high-level glimpse of the candidate’s capabilities. Relying solely on the résumé without conducting backchannel reference checks or an organized, scorecard-based interview may lead to hiring someone without the necessary skills.
To hire the right VP Sales, there are three key processes you should put in place: multiple interviews, scorecards, and reference checks.
Hiring the right VP Sales is crucial to the success and growth of your company. However, you may not have the time or the resources to find the perfect fit.
At Cowen Partners Executive Search, we have the skills, resources, and experience to match you with a VP Sales that will not only unlock significant growth potential but will help take your company to the next level.
We can identify the right kind of VP Sales you need and then find one with the necessary skill set to fill the position.
Demand generation marketing strategies are tactics used to generate interest and demand for a company’s products or services.
Demand generation is the focus of targeted marketing programs to drive awareness and interest in a company’s products and/or services.
Demand generation can include various communication channels from blog posts and social media messaging to targeted promotions and list creation. When all is said and done, demand gen is typically involved in every aspect of a business’s sales funnel. Every marketing strategy should include some sort of demand generation process for attracting people to the brand and pushing them through the sales funnel.
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In marketing, lead generation is the initiation of consumer interest or inquiry into products or services of a business. Leads can be created for list building, e-newsletter list acquisition, or sales leads.
Lead generation refers to a specific subset of demand generation. Demand gen attracts people to business and piques interest in the overall brand, product, or service. Then, lead gen comes in and turns the interested parties into more concrete sales leads by collecting contact information.
Every company needs some form of lead generation if they want to continue growing and to see success. Without lead generation, targeted marketing efforts are much more difficult. Once the lead generation is complete, demand gen takes back over to continue pushing people down the sales cycle with more targeted content and value.
The problem with demand gen is that it takes a lot more work and manpower to accomplish successfully than businesses realize. This is not a process that can be managed by a single employee. To properly run a demand gen strategy, you need a full team or department working on the process.
One main role of the demand gen team or department is to bridge the gap between marketing and sales. The overall demand gen campaign process includes multiple components that require a lot of work. A few of aspects of demand gen covered by the demand team are listed below:
The demand gen team is constantly reviewing customer insights to ensure the sales funnel is working appropriately. By monitoring what works and what doesn’t, the team can tweak the marketing strategy as necessary to continue generating growth and sales.
The sales funnel encompasses many key metrics, all of which should be tracked by your company. Detailing customer experiences, engagements, and decisions can lead to more efficient and accurate campaigns in the future.
The demand generation team knows not only what to say to potential customers but also how to say it. Value and customer-relevant information are conveyed through a variety of content delivery systems. Each message must be carefully constructed and targeted to convey the most important information to customers.
In today’s tech-heavy world, companies have a number of delivery systems they can use for reaching customers. Email, social media, blog content, and advertisements are all content delivery options available to your company. A demand gen team knows which delivery system is best for your content and goals.
Revenue generation is one of the most important activities any business can engage in. It is defined as a process by which a company plans how to market and sell its products or services, in order to generate income.
There are two positions in the C-suite that facilitate the overall success of the demand generation team. These two positions are chief growth officer (CGO) and chief revenue officer (CRO). A CGO monitors all aspects of the business that help drive growth and the CRO is responsible for ensuring the company is leveraging all marketing opportunities to generate the most sales. Together, these two leadership roles help shape and drive the overall marketing strategy involved in demand generation.
Under these two important positions you’ll often find the VP sales and the VP marketing. The vice presidents of these two departments are responsible for overseeing the demand generation process, from strategy to revenue goals. These two positions help create the overall demand gen campaign funnel and monitor the progress to ensure metrics are being hit.
Finally, you have marketing managers and sales development representatives. These team members are responsible for executing the overall demand gen strategy and nurturing potential customers throughout the sales cycle.
These positions are just a few of the main roles needed for a successful demand generation team. Since demand generation touches on sales and marketing, you need people who can confidently handle every part of customer development. In addition to managing customer development and business growth, you also need leaders in these positions who can work well together throughout the sales cycle. Demand gen teams can struggle when sales representatives and marketing managers fail to communicate important data insights and value propositions.
A demand generation team is a must for the future success of your business. Determine which essential demand gen positions are missing from your company and fill those roles as soon as possible so you can see an improvement in company growth.
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