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How to Hire a Sales VP

Choosing a candidate to be your new sales VP is a decision which greatly will impact the development of your company. You must consider many factors.

The size of your organization? Have you pinned down your objectives and growth strategy? What are your intentions regarding your sales VP at this stage of your development, and which competencies are imperative that he or she possess?

Strategy, Structure, Size, and Stage

First and foremost, it’s important to note that a Sales VP and Manager have very different roles. Many leaders still confuse the two.

  1. The sales VP’s role is mainly strategic – strategic planning, building strategic alliances and partnerships, pricing structure, remuneration, strategic sales channel management, market development, etc.
  2. The sales manager’s role will be mainly operational – daily pre-meeting coaching, daily post-meeting debriefing, daily & weekly sales meetings, weekly pipeline review, the motivation of representatives, etc.

Before deciding on your new VP, you must first have established your business strategy, sales objectives and growth forecast. Many companies believe they need a one type of sales VP, in reality, they need someone entirely different.

Then, you have to make sure the candidate is coherent with the actuality of your business environment. For example, a sales VP with creative, entrepreneurial qualities willing to go out there and change the world, will be useless in a stable, stiff type of environment with established strategies and pricing. Who you need in this case is a VP who will supervise and support your sales director.

The size of your organization and its stage of evolution are interrelated. The challenges faced by the Sales VP differ whether they evolve in a SMB or a large enterprise, or whether the business is experiencing rapid growth or a decrease in sales.

Now that you’ve established the strategy, the structure, the size and the stage of your company, you can better determine which competencies your sales VP will need to be an effective fit with your company.

Which competencies should you look for?

An organization must recruit a sales VP who has the competencies required to do what’s expected of him or her.

For example, if you run a young company and have a very open working environment, you’ll want someone who has the entrepreneurial bug – an enterprising, creative person.

On the other hand, if you’re the CEO of a large company in which the sale strategies have long been developed, you’ll need to recruit a leader who will most likely act as glorified director to the sales directors. There will be much less focus on creativity.

It’s very tempting to recruit your VP based on past successes and character. However, do the competencies that were needed to achieve those successes still fit in with your current vision and objectives?

Capabilities of Sales VPs

  1. Sales leadership
  2. Strategic thinker
  3. Develops strong relationships
  4. Problem solver
  5. Strong recruiting skills, visionary, innovative and creative
  6. Skilled executioner
  7. Skilled negotiator
  8. Risk taker
  9. Personal makeup (personal goals, plan, desire and commitment, outlook & motivation, etc.)
  10. Coaching
  11. Motivating
  12. Accountability

Let’s look at a few of those different competencies and in which situations to apply them:

Strong strategic skills

Very useful in up-and-coming companies where strategies and objectives have yet to be established;

Problem solver

A must-have for recruiting a VP into an environment where many tactical elements must be fixed;

Strong recruiting skills, visionary, innovative, and creative

These competencies will be hugely beneficial if you are looking for a VP at the development stage of your life cycle;

Skilled executioner

A skilled executioner will go through different processes with efficiency, making this quality a must-have when faced with objectives of rapid growth, increased productivity, or restructuring of the sales force, etc.

A skilled negotiator

A skilled negotiator will be very useful when negotiating significant, complex contracts;

Risk taker

The company is going through major changes, and you need a risk taker who won’t be afraid to ride out the hurricane.

Carefully examine these leadership competencies and figure out which make the most sense for the direction your company is going in.


Only once you’ve established the direction you want your company to go in, can you evaluate a potential candidate to determine if they have the general qualities you are looking for. A sales-specific evaluation will simplify your search and enable you to work with the right person to make it happen.

Make sure you meet a potential candidate up front before you decide. Don’t make the mistake, as you might do when hiring salespeople or sales directors, of becoming biased about a person before putting them through the evaluation process.

Keep in mind that this person might be in place for only a few years. The next person in line might possess entirely different qualities, as your intentions for your VP will have changed depending on what stage you are at that moment.