CHAPTER 11Sales Leaders

Companies keep “mis-firing by mis-hiring” the most important role on the sales team.


If you don't have a sales team yet, skip ahead to Chapter 12: “Startups Only,” and read the piece on “Four Phases of Hiring Your First Sales Team”.

There's a venture capitalist saying (which we hate) that goes something like, “You've got to get past the carcass of your first VP of Sales” or “It's with your second VP of Sales that you really start selling,” or variants thereof. It especially bugs us because we're firm believers in hiring and training fewer, more committed people, rather than taking a “churn and burn” approach.

But … those VCs are right. In startups, it seems as though the majority of first VP Sales fail: They don't even make it past 12 months. The average tenure for VP Sales in Silicon Valley averages 19 months, so that includes the winners—ouch. (And marketing leaders average 18 months in fast growth companies.)

Let's look at what those VP Sales should do. Because most founders/CEOs are looking for the wrong things—especially the first-time founders, or founders who haven't spent much time in or with Sales.

Top Five Things a Great VP of Sales Does at a Growing Company

  1. Recruiting. You hire a VP Sales not to sell, but to recruit, train, and coach other people to sell. So recruiting is 20% or more of their time, because you're going to need a team to sell. And recruiting great reps and making them successful ...

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