Hiring a Weapons-Grade VP Sales for your B2B SaaS Company

By Aaron Blackman

Once your company has achieved some initial traction, the number one thing you can do to significantly move the sales needle, is to hire an incredible VP of Sales.

Most SaaS founders, while they may have done some sales in the past, are not formally trained in sales.

It’s pretty rare that a VP of sales comes out and founds their own SaaS company.

That said, a common mistake entrepreneurs make is thinking they need to hire a VP of Sales too soon.

While it's great that they have built an innovative product and gathered X number of users, or X revenue, it likely isn't generating enough revenue to pay for a single engineer, let alone four. 

They may not know much about sales and be feeling the pressure to hire someone fast, but it is actually better that they take on this role themselves in the beginning. 

However, once you reach at least $1M ARR, this is the ideal time to bring in your VP of Sales.

I was great example of this myself when I started. 

I didn’t have prior sales experience, however I was uber-passionate about my vision, and knew I had a product that was uniquely solving some big problems within my ICP.  

My industry and product knowledge, along with me passion and formidable work ethic, enabled my way to fumble my way through sales development to the point where we were break even within four months of startup.

But I quickly realised that my lack of sales experience was holding back our growth; and that I needed to be focussing on many other areas of the business strategy and execution.

Hiring the right sales leader can literally change the course of your business (and it did for me..).

It’s a role that you absolutely cannot compromise on.

In some roles your recruiting for, it’s ok to find talent that’s stepping up into the new role your hiring for; whereby they’ve demonstrated outstanding prior experience in a less senior role and are ready to take the next progression step in their career.

The exception here is hiring a VP Sales. 

You want a weapons-grade VP Sales that’s already done it before and been uber-successful at doing it at another SaaS company.

Yes this will cost you more in compensation, and be harder to recruit for; however this is a non-negotiable if you want to really move the needle.  

It will pay massive dividends quickly and set your company and sales team up for significant step-change growth.

If you hire a VP Sales that hasn’t actually done it before, you’re essentially rolling the dice, and more often than not, they don’t work out. 

This will cost you 6 months of lost opportunity and a ton of precious time and resource.

As a founder, you need to be super energetic and visionary so that you can persuade amazing talent to join you on your mission.…because its not easy to convince a rock-star to join an unknown startup. 

By having a super-exciting vision and being able to demonstrate how your Product Market Fit is disrupting a new category (or doing it better than others), and show a growth pathway that will knock their socks off; you’re well on your way to enticing amazing talent.

When hiring a VP of Sales, their job is to exponentially boost your growth and materially improve the metrics of sales within one quarter, or less.

If they cannot achieve this, it's time to re-evaluate their position within the organization.

It may be necessary to fire or demote them if they continuously fail to meet expectations. 

Ultimately, you're looking for improvement. They need to be able to achieve more than you did previously, otherwise what’s the point?

A good VP of Sales should be at least a little (or a lot) better than you at extracting more revenue from the same leads and TAM.

When you’re interviewing a VP of Sales and all they talk about is strategy, they may not be a strong closer, so be sure to validate their closing capabilities during the interviews. 

Once hired, your VP Sales should be able to initially hold their own personal quota and lead by example and get quickly to a run rate of well over $1M ARR a year.

However once they’ve proven themselves as a strong closer, they should quickly move into a strategic capacity. 

They can’t be carrying a quota bag for too long, because to add another $3M to $4M a year to your top line, they wont be able to achieve this by directly selling themselves (they need to transition into a strategic and team leadership capacity).

Another critical aspect of their remit is to build a successful team.

They should already have some great talent within their network that they can persuade to join you also. 

If that VP of Sales does nothing else but increase the quality of Account Executives on your sales team, as measured by revenue per lead, you’re going to see amazing things happen.

During your interviews, make sure the VP Sales can articulate how they’ve built and implemented a successful playbook; and apply their prior success manifesto to quickly introduce best practice across every aspect of your sales operations; and blow up you sales numbers quickly.

One of the first KPI’s to then measure your VPS on, is increasing the amount of revenue per lead. A great sign of a star performer is to significantly increase your lead to deal closure rate by at least 30%.  

When I hired my first sales leader, our lead to deal closure rate moved from 22% to 55% within six months.

This all came down to re-designing every aspect of the sales process.  From how to qualify the prospect early, what to say during, and how to run a run a highly tactical Discovery process; that was establishing a soft close prior to even running a demonstration. 

Then following a demonstration, using a process that was highly effective at bringing forward the prospect sign-off within 4-6 weeks from the initial qualification phase.

A Great VP of Sales will become a profit centre, whereas an ‘average’ one will become a cost centre.

When they come in, without knowing much about the product or the competitors, they should quickly be able to create a dramatic uplift in almost every sales metric you can measure.

PS. Make sure you set sales quota’s & compensation plans that are industry best practice. I have another blog on this very topic… 😊