Editor’s note: This post is adapted from a recent webinar we held with Winning by Design’s Connor Fee. You can watch the full webinar below.
Did you know that more than half of companies wind up firing their VP of sales less than a year after they hired them? And that’s true whether it’s their first VP of sales or the tenth! If this sounds familiar, keep reading.
When things break down with your VP of sales, the natural tendency is to blame that person. It’s easy to say that he didn’t have the right experience or that she didn’t deliver the results everyone thought she would. But the truth is that the blame typically lies squarely with the founder or CEO who hired the person.
In most cases, there are two main reasons for this. First, the company wasn’t clear on what it actually wanted or what its expectations for the role were. And second, more likely than not, it didn’t have an effective interviewing process to help them identify the right person for the role.
Understand what you need
Founders and CEOs often aren’t as clear as they could be when it comes to what their VP of sales can and should be doing. They tend to labor under the misconception that this person will have the same amount of skin in the game that they do and that they can operate autonomously without any guidance. Plus, they also expect their head of sales to be good at everything, even though that’s completely unrealistic.
Rather than try to find sales unicorns that simply don’t exist, a much better strategy is to whittle down the laundry list of skills that you want your VP of sales to have to the two or three that matter most to your business. That way you can focus on finding candidates who actually possess those skills. Not only that, once you’ve made a hire, it then becomes much easier to guide the person you wind up hiring and ultimately measure their success.
Rethink your approach to interviews
Being clear about what you’re looking for is only the first step. You then need to be able to identify a strong candidate who actually has those skills. At many companies, that’s where things come off the rails. They lack a rigorous interview process to help them vet candidates and then wind up letting their decisions be influenced by the wrong people.
Regardless of whether you’re turning to your board of directors for help finding a VP of sales, or to a recruiter, you need a systematic approach to interviewing candidates around the core skills that matter most to your business. Otherwise you run the risk of falling into the trap of pattern matching where it’s easy to mistakenly assume candidates are qualified simply because they check some predetermined boxes. Figure out exactly what it is that you need to assess about potential candidates and then tailor the interview process around it. And make sure to take your time. This isn’t a process that should be rushed.
The interview beyond the interview
Great, so you’ve taken the advice and hired a VP of sales. But just because you’ve done so, that doesn’t mean that they truly belong in the role. As a founder or CEO, you need to view the person’s first three months on the job as a continuation of their interview. Yes, they’ve won enough of your confidence to get the job. Now the question is do they deserve to keep it?
Hopefully the answer is a resounding yes. But if it’s not, don’t be scared to acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake and to cut the cord. If you’ve made a bad hire, it’s going to be much better for your business if you take steps to replace the person sooner rather than later.
Watch the webinar to learn more
Hiring a VP of sales is critical for the success of any business. But to do so successfully, you need to have the right expectation. Check out the full webinar for much more information.