What kind of person do you need to lead your sales team? For most businesses, there comes a time when you need to answer this tough question in order to hire a new VP of Sales. The pressure to find the best possible candidate can be incredible – so much of your company’s success depends on finding the right person for this job. If you hire the wrong candidate to lead your team, it can devastate your sales results for months or even years, especially if you’re an SMB.

InsightSquared recently hired a new Sales VP, so we know exactly how tough this process can be. How do you find the best possible Sales VP for your company and feel confident in taking a leap of faith to hire them? Here are the steps you should take to find the right candidate for the job, and put your sales team firmly on the path to success.

What are Your Goals?

Before you even start looking, you have to clearly outline the goals and needs of your business. The right candidate for your company really depends on the size of your business right now, and how quickly you’re looking to grow in the coming years.

Company 1: Needs a Sales VP to help streamline the selling process and grow the business from $1 million in revenue to $10 million.

Company 2: Early-stage startup looking for someone to help build the company a powerful and repeatable sales process, and to hire and train new reps to execute that process.

The ideal VP candidates for these two companies look very different, have different backgrounds and different skill sets. If you don’t understand what your business needs right now in order to reach your goals, then you won’t be looking for the right VP candidate from the start. Make sure you do a strong analysis of the sales team and create a set goal before you even start the job search.

How Do You Find a Candidate?

Once you understand your goals and business needs, now you have a rough outline of the candidate you need to find. You are looking for a candidate with relevant experience in growing a business of a similar size, in a similar industry, or with the capacity to learn and adapt. You don’t want to get too hung up on finding an exact match to your business, but you do need to be looking for specific skills that you believe will matter most for your business. For executive-level hiring, most companies prefer to work with a recruiter to find the best possible candidate to fit these specifications. Recruiters have a much larger pool of talent to draw from. They may be able to find you a candidate that you never would have considered before, but who may be a perfect fit for your team.

Is This Candidate Thinking Long-Term?

Now that you have a few candidates to consider, it’s time to interview and assess the person’s real skills and abilities to lead a sales team. Just because they’ve worked as a VP at a similar company doesn’t mean they’re exactly what you’re looking for. For a SaaS business like InsightSquared, for example, revenue growth is driven in the long-term by the company’s churn rate. There’s often a fundamental tension between the sales team that just wants new deals – no matter how unqualified – and the finance and customer-facing teams who depend heavily on customer renewal rates. In this case, we were looking for a Sales VP who understands this tension, and was willing to work harder to find better quality deals. Instead of just worrying about hitting a goal number, the VP should understand that the health of the entire business comes first. You should ask questions during the interview process to figure out if the candidate is both an aggressive salesperson, AND a long-term strategic thinker.

Learn More About the Right Metrics for Your Sales Team»

Is There a Culture Fit?

If you feel as though you’ve found a candidate with the right background and skill set, the last step is considering how this person will fit in with your team. When InsightSquared hired Sales VP Steve McKenzie, he first met with the CEO, then the rest of the executive team, then the sales managers that report to him, then a few board members and then finally the current VP in the role. Throughout this entire process, the team was screening him not just for his skills and business acumen, but also to see how they would work together. Culture is something that can’t be tested with metrics – it’s all based on an intangible gut feeling. In the interview process, you want the candidate to culturally mesh with the entire team – everyone should want to work with that person and feel like he or she will definitely add value to the business.
If you’ve carefully followed these steps, you have a strong candidate on your hands that you should hire. You know this person has the experience, the skills, and the priorities you need to grow your sales team and drive your business.

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