30+ SaaS CEOs Share The Indicators Their First VP of Gross sales … Simply Wasn’t Going to Work Out (Up to date)


So maybe the primary SaaStr publish that generated a whole lot of controversy was “If Your VP of Gross sales Isn’t Going to Work Out — You’ll Know in 30 Days”.  The purpose of the publish wasn’t {that a} new VP of Gross sales can get the whole lot executed in 4 weeks.  However fairly, that it’s best to see enhancements ASAP.  1 or 2 new, higher reps.  A couple of caught offers that lastly shut.  And many others. and many others.

Lots of veteran SaaS income leaders protested, however most of them, upon reflecting on it, got here to agree the purpose was proper.  A brand new VP of Gross sales doesn’t all the time double gross sales in 30 days — though it might occur in SMB gross sales.  However they do transfer the needle.  They don’t simply discuss.

As an replace to that basic publish, I requested founders what had been the indicators they first noticed … {that a} mis-hired VP of Gross sales wasn’t going to work out.  I’ve collected them under.  If you happen to assume you’ve made a mishire, however aren’t positive, check out the listing under.  These are warnings indicators.

“Instead of learning what was already working and earning trust of existing sales team Brought in the exact sales script and process that worked at their last company Lasted less than 60-days” — Andrew Gazdecki, CEO Microacquire.

The previous playbook does assist, however each nice VP of Gross sales is aware of they rapidly should evolve it to any new function.  A mediocre VP of Gross sales … doesn’t.

“First order of business: let’s buy a Keurig for the sales floor.

Second order of enterprise: by no means be taught the enterprise, pricing, names of reps, or anything.” – Ryan Doyle, Magic Gross sales Bot

Okay, I do benefit from the Keurig so unsure I’m there on the primary level.  However the second is spot on. You’ll be able to snigger, however so many VPs of Gross sales I’ve seen fail in startups by no means actually understood the enterprise, the pricing, or a lot else.  Why?  They’re simply making an attempt to run a course of.  That may work form of OK in larger firms, when the job is dashboards and pipeline.  However it doesn’t remotely work earlier than $10m-$20m ARR.  If ever.

“Narrow scope lens rather than wholistic lens. Secondarily not metrics focused.” — Paul Tyrrell, Founder, Field Insight HQ

A VP of Gross sales can fail by solely caring about metrics and course of, and never the product and distinct buyer wants.  However they’ll additionally fail if they’ll’t get their arms round what metrics matter.  Extra a threat in a really stretch VP of Gross sales that’s by no means owned the general ARR / bookings quantity.

“Can’t source and/or close a single deal” — Julien Codorniou, Felix Capital

OK, don’t snigger at this one as a result of it’s actual — and customary.  It could possibly take 2 totally different kinds in my expertise.  If you happen to rent a VP of Gross sales too early and hope they’ll jumpstart gross sales, it’s typically too early to carry them in.  They shut nothing.  And virtually worst, and extra insidious, is the VP of Gross sales who joins one thing with some momentum — that doesn’t add something to that momentum.  They declare credit score for the whole lot taking place, however don’t add something to income.  Their job is to tilt the curve.  Not barely preserve it, however with extra expense and assets.

“Prev jobs all < 2 years and trading off those logos . 1- 2 times can be fit/ other co issues. No long term employment = better at selling themselves than a product or service. Always a deal that’s “about to close”, not enough top of funnel activity.” – Aanand Radia, Education Investor

An amazing VP of Gross sales in all probability does should have stayed one place for lengthy sufficient to get promoted, rent their first staff, and see the total cycle.  That takes 4 years.  Extra right here.

1. Doesn’t recruit any of their own people

2. Promises unrealistic deals/customers early

3. Their first sales pitch. If you talk 10x > than you listen, easy to know it won’t work out — Jonathan Lacoste, Space VC

Any nice VP of Gross sales — job #1 is recruiting.  If they’ll’t recruit ASAP — of their first 30 days — it’s normally hopeless.

“Ability to recruit top talent and has a network that follows is the #1 signal. Talent is the bottleneck for all exec functions and early leading indicator on success or failure is recruiting gravitas.” — Joel May, Bridgegate

An amplification of the prior level, however a great one.  50% of the job of a real VP is recruiting.  And VPs of Gross sales should recruit extra expertise than another function.  So they’re all the time recruiting.

“When I had to call the police to go to his house and see if he was alive/missing/ok…and if the rental car he had was in one piece. True story. He seemed so promising…until he didn’t.” — Ben Block, CEO GozAround

This will likely sound like a narrative that may’t occur to you, nevertheless it’s a reminder to End. Your.  Diligence.  Of us nowadays are hiring quicker than ever, and they’re skipping reference checks routinely.  Even worse for a VP of Gross sales, they aren’t calling previous hires and a buyer or two.  It’s a must to.  Or you might nicely get Catfished by a VP of Gross sales that talks the discuss, however can’t or received’t stroll the stroll.

“Can’t Hire.”  Heidi Bullock, CMO Tealium

We stated it above, and we’ll say it once more.  However a VP that may’t rent isn’t an actual VP.  And most particularly a VP of Gross sales.  Half the job is hiring nice gross sales execs.  In the event that they haven’t introduced on 1 nice gross sales rep a minimum of of their first 30 days — they by no means will.

“Focus on empire building versus our seeing customers and closing ACV.” — Adnan Chaundhry, EVP Sales, Slack / Salesforce

If a brand new VP of Gross sales doesn’t begin speaking to clients their first day on the job, a minimum of becoming a member of a name or two — you’ve received issues.

“First milestone check (4 weeks) when it was everyone else’s fault for non delivery. And even earlier conversation was about what ‘you’needed to do as a company and not ‘we’.” — Susan Burton, CEO Classlist

The blame sport begins early for a VP of Gross sales that isn’t going to make it.  You hear complaints concerning the VP of Advertising, Buyer Sucess, the product and extra quickly.  They’re all the time excuses for not hitting the quantity.

“Sells snake oil to customers then tries to ask R&D to deliver and ops/cust success to support for free.” – Harry Labana, Managing Director, Goldman Sachs

Just a little tiny little bit of that is a part of enterprise gross sales.  However a brand new VP of Gross sales who tries to get factors on the board however promoting options that don’t exist … that’s an enormous crimson flag.  They received’t work out.

“When he told our board (in his first meeting) that we should consider setting our price point at $50 per month. (Our ARPA was ~$1,200 at the time)” — Ed Laczynski, CEO Zype

The brand new VP of Gross sales that doesn’t respect what already is working is a big flag.  One of the best ones double down on what it’s already working, simply tune it up and do it higher.

“Ability to recruit top talent and has a network that follows is the #1 signal. Talent is the bottleneck for all exec functions and early leading indicator on success or failure is recruiting gravitas.” – Joel May, Exec Recruiter

Yup.  Once more, it’s a recruiting job greater than anything. Hiring a VP of Gross sales with out a minimum of 2 good reps able to comply with right here is tremendous dangerous.

“Couldn’t get the name of the product correct. Never logged into the site (didn’t know the URL). Didn’t spell team members names correct. Openly yelled at PMs and Devs. Oh, and never sold anything.”  — Katie Robbert, CEO Trust Insights

Gross sales leaders that by no means use the product or log into the location is simply too widespread.  They shoot from the hip.  Possibly OK when you’ve gotten an enormous model backing you (not OK, however possibly it really works generally).  Fails at a start-up.

“Didn’t have any relationships with anyone at any relevant companies” — Colin Jordan, CEO Pawtocol

A Rolodex solely takes you to date.  It helps within the enterprise, nevertheless it’s not crucial ultimately.  But when a VP of Gross sales claims they’ve their business contacts — and so they don’t.  Effectively, it’s time to maneuver on.

“When they are hired just purely for their network irregardless of culture fit or being a decent human being.” — Kirill So, DeliveryHero

Yup.  See prior level.

“- Negotiates harder in-house than with customers🚩
– Hires solely these he/she is aware of from earlier firm
– Doesn’t align fee plan w/ firm aims” — Matt Martin, Cofounder, Exact Well being Report

An amazing VP of Gross sales is aware of that the comp plan ought to tie to the ARR objective for the corporate at year-end.  And they need to have sufficient fairness to go lengthy.  In the event that they push for different objectives, you’ve gotten a difficulty.

“Spends more time on negotiating quota than closing deals” — Mathew Lodge, CEO Diffblue

Yup. See prior level.

“The first ever email that I got to see (via them) had our product’s name written incorrectly.” — Pratekk Khurana

One of the best VPs of Gross sales get to be true specialists within the product — quick.  And they’re all the time model ambassadors.

“When they wanted to sell me a pen” — Joshua Ziering, Founder,

Okay, I do imagine within the “Promote Me This Pen” take a look at — when it’s executed proper.  A VP of Gross sales ought to be capable of promote you each on the product itself, and on why of us would be a part of the corporate.  However a VP of Gross sales that simply needs to run an old-school playbook is a matter.

“Wrote a 28 page playbook with call scripts, emails scripts, comp analysis before closing first sale.” — Ishan Girdhar 

This can be a good perception.  THere’s nothing incorrect with this per se.  It’s the proper factor to do once you go to rent reps 4-400.  But when that is what your new VP of Gross sales is doing their first 30 days, they’re all about course of over hands-on gross sales.  They’re too Massive Firm.  You made an error.

“Constantly says “at my last company we…” — Adam Saad

A few of that is good.  However it’s worthwhile to improve and replace the playbook for every new function.  The final playbook by no means works 100% on the new gross sales function.  In case you are fortunate, 50% of it really works. This line suggests an incapability to be taught and adapt.

“When the VP of marketing outsold the VP of sales, 10:1” — Tim Hayden, CEO YourBrainTrust

This actually solely occurs in SMB and combined self-serve / sales-driven fashions, however yeah it’s an indication.  The VP of Gross sales must be a minimum of nearly as good as your VP of Advertising.

“When you have to question if they’re working out.” — Team EPECC

Yup.  That is so true.  Even if you’re no gross sales knowledgeable your self, it’s best to see sufficient enhancements in gross sales within the first 30 days of a VP of Gross sales that you already know it’s working.  If you happen to don’t assume it’s … it isn’t.  Extra time doesn’t clear up this.  A tricky lesson so many founders should be taught.

“Brought in sales consultants” — Rob Boyle

It is likely to be OK for a VP of Gross sales to herald a Salesforce advisor to assist with Salesforce, or slightly assistance on income operations, within the first 30 days.  However too many companies and consultants is an enormous flag.  It’s an indication they don’t really know do it themselves.

“He would get so mad in sales team meetings his face would turn red.” — Josh Buttita

VP of Gross sales is a tricky job.  It requires ardour and a difficult mixture of urgency and persistence.  And the staff all the time believing it may be executed.  And exhibiting them it may be.

“As head of product being told “if you can just keep up with me we’ll get to $100m ARR in no time” — Kevin O’Neill, VP Product, Splash

I like this problem on some degree :).  However once more, blaming product is an indication of a VP of Gross sales that received’t get there.  Each startup is feature-poor and had function gaps.  Product and Eng owe Gross sales extra options each quarter.  However no product will ever be 100% feature-complete vs. the competitors.  An amazing VP of Gross sales is aware of how greatest to work round that, and a minimum of shut extra offers than closed earlier than they arrived.

“Asks for a product feature to be developed to close more sales quicker.” — Marty, GP, Adventure Fund

Once more, a few of this as your VP of Gross sales scales is nice.  Rather a lot is a foul signal.

“They don’t connect with your customers when you take them on those initial key client meetings. The big tell is when the customer turns the relationship back towards the C-Level.” – Cris Solomon, Encanto Cloud

That is one other nice one.  When on the first board assembly I ask a brand new VP of Gross sales how certainly one of their prime offers is doing, and I push for particulars, and so they don’t know … nicely, that VP of Gross sales by no means works out.

About the fourth time I hear them trying to tell a customer something utterly contrary to what we do.” — Robert Keith

You’ll be able to snigger however you must take heed to the gross sales staff’s calls and Zooms — together with the VP of Gross sales.  You’ll be saddened by what number of incorrect issues mediocre gross sales of us say.  They only make stuff up.  And it’s typically incorrect.  And that insults the prospect’s intelligence.

“Trying to take on non-sales related responsibilities.” — Nelson Joyce, Cofounder, Tettra 

One other one that’s simply so essential.  One of the best startup VPs of Gross sales are simply closers.  They only need to shut.  They don’t need to personal Advertising, or Buyer Success.  It’s all the time an enormous crimson flag once they need to personal extra.  You’ll see.

“If they don’t do something impressive in the first two weeks they won’t do something impressive in the following two years” — Next World Order

Yup.  Giving them extra time to place the very first factors on the board doesn’t assist.

“Blaming de marketing team instead of finding solutions” — Anabella Laya, Founder Acreditta

There are by no means sufficient leads.  However blaming advertising and marketing doesn’t assist.  There hardly ever are fewer leads than earlier than they began.

“The good reps quit.” — Zach Cusimano SVP People,

Such an essential level.  A robust new VP of Gross sales strikes out the weak performers rapidly — normally within the first week or two.  However they focus further consideration on the highest closers they inherit.  And make them even higher and extra profitable.

“You ask him to choose a quota number for the year and what he says is lower than his annual travel budget. He then explains he’s not comfortable as an individual contributor. I thought I was on #CandidCamera” — Jeff Kozloff

A VP of Gross sales that received’t join a minimum of a considerably formidable quantity both doesn’t imagine, is scared, or doesn’t know do it.  Both manner, they aren’t going to work out.

“Excuses, blame not making progress on forced out of her control. Blame the go before you…excuses” — Carlos S

One of the best VPs of Gross sales generally must complain just a bit bit.  And it’s worthwhile to be there for them.  However they don’t make excuses.  And when they’ll miss the month or the quarter, they let you already know forward of time.  And why.  And the way they’ll enhance issues.

“Leadership Team Meeting for SaaS business, a discussion arose about a product tweak and idea of a pricing model change, Sales VP’s FIRST & immediate comment before we got into anything juicy was about how this would impact sales team members’ compensation packages.” — Ben Hubbard

Gross sales comp tweaks, accelerators, territories, and many others.  This all issues at scale.  However they aren’t the #1 precedence for a VP of Gross sales at a startup.

And let me add just a few clear indicators I’ve seen of a VP Gross sales that isn’t going to work out:

  • The VP of Gross sales by no means actually will get to know the product.  Among the responses above additionally hit on this, and I see it too typically.  That is particularly widespread once you rent a VP of Gross sales to promote a product extra advanced or with totally different consumers than their final product.
  • Spends first 30 days engaged on course of.  Maybe that is OK at $50m+ ARR … maybe.  However it’s virtually all the time an indication of somebody from a BigCo or with out the proper actual expertise that doesn’t know promote.
  • Threatens to give up.  Leaders simply by no means do that, however I’ve seen weak VPs of Gross sales do that on a regular basis once they get into a tricky spot or fall behind.
  • Nobody good joins them within the first 30 days.  We’re written this earlier than, however one of the best VPs of Gross sales are all the time recruiting.  So that they all the time have a minimum of 1-2 good of us to carry with them.  In the event that they don’t have any — that’s an indication.
  • Scared.  VP of Gross sales is a tricky, robust job.  It’s fixed stress to hit even larger numbers.  And generally, concern units in.  Not a bit of tension, however true concern.  Concern it might’t be executed.  It’s robust, however I’ve by no means seen a VP of Gross sales get well right here.

If you happen to see hints of those tales within the new VP of Gross sales you simply employed, a minimum of be sure you actually imagine.  You actually imagine they’ll do it.

If you happen to do, they in all probability can.  However if you happen to don’t imagine for actual.  And also you see a bunch of the indicators above.  You’ve made a mis-hire.

That’s on you.  Now go repair it.

battle picture from here


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