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How to identify a great VP of Sales for your SaaS business (Part 1 - startup grind)

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

Stage: Series A or B company; ARR $0-10M One of the most challenging things for a founder/CEO is to size up, what does a great VP of Sales look like for us? Why? So many factors go into the candidate selection that aren't obvious by looking at one's accomplishments or LinkedIn profile. There is pressure from your Board on the pace of the hire and possibly the persona of the hire. You may not know enough to validate that persona or debate effectively with your Board. Potential for failure is high, many people can sell in the interview if not tested sufficiently and the cost of failure can set you back a year or more on revenue targets. It can be scary as your reliance on this hire is HIGH. The ICP (Ideal Candidate Profile) Let's get into it!

  • No big Company only candidates - full stop. No experience at this stage is asking for a very bad outcome

  • Ability to personally sell - they will need to be involved in early customer wins, often closing for or with sales reps. Beyond a "Manager"

  • The Model - are we talking about $5K ACV sales within a 30 day cycle, are we talking about a $100K enterprise sale with a 90 day cycle with a POC to a CISO? Or another seling motion. Candidates must show demonstrable success in the customer segment, deal size, cycle and customer journey you play within

  • Can they drive your pitch and customer qualification evolution, working with Product/Marketing/Sales Engineering (if needed)

  • People aspect - this is not the time to take a bet on a 1st time Manager. Can they recruit the first number of top sales reps? Can they motivate the team to take on big goals? Can they resonate with and close sales engineering talent? If your sale is sales engineering heavy, this team is often more important than your sales people. Will they inspect sales reps plans, pipeline and drive accountability weekly

  • Forecasting - Does not have to be entirely scientific and sophisticated at this stage but they must have a process and be able to meet a monthly, not quarterly, forecast. You are counting on this in how you operate the business. No excuses or repeated errors here is tolerable

  • Domain - an often debated topic. At Stella, we prefer Domain but are not exclusive about it. Experience in a similar sales model is more important. But Domain does help in the ramp time and confidence in the candidate's ability to understand and convey the value proposition More will go into your candidate persona building which will then lead to documenting your interview process. We recommend documenting what ideal looks like for you and work backwards to prospective candidates. What can you live with for uncertainties, what are non-negotiables. Notice we did not cover sales process, methodology, scaling hiring, sales training and enablement, metrics, etc. All are important to assess, but they become more important in Part 2 of our Series, Scaling from $10M+ And by all means prior to hiring - make the finalist candidates present to you and your team. Their current company pitch (should be easy for them - see how compelling) and your company pitch, more difficult as knowledge is limited

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