The ability to recruit, coach, and develop effective sales teams; have a relentless pursuit of key strategic goals; and posses a long track record of high integrity transactions with peers, customers, and partners are all traits employers look for in their next (or first) VP Sales. But in order to attract and hire a great VP Sales and outpace competitors who vie for the same stellar candidates, employers need to understand the job traits that a VP Sales values most when evaluating prospective employers.
Why? Great VPs of Sales – those who consistently lead their teams to achieve aggressive growth targets – are happily employed and understand that they are the most highly coveted salespeople on the market, so they won’t consider making a move to a new employer unless the perfect opportunity comes their way.
So, what job traits do great VP Sales value the most when considering a new career opportunity?
In no particular order, here are the 10 job traits every VP sales considers when evaluating a career opportunity from a prospective employer:
1. An offering they believe in
If an executive decides to join a new company, it’s because they believe in what the company is selling. World-class employers understand this, and, when sales recruiting, clearly detail to candidates how their offering fills a need in the market, has an excellent market reputation, and will continue to solve complex business problems today and into the future.
2. A compensation plan that is above market
The number one thing all salespeople consider when evaluating an employment opportunity is compensation. A typical VP Sales compensation package will be comprised of a six-figure base salary plus additional incentives, such as equity, stock options, and bonus plans.
- Base Pay – A VP Sales expects to have the highest base salary on the sales team because of the functions they perform. Base salaries for the position, regardless of company size, industry, or location, start at $100k, with an average base salary of $124,193.
- Commission – A VP Sales expects commissions and bonuses to equal about 30% of their total compensation package.
- Equity and Stock Options – If the company is private, a VP Sales will expect equity, especially if the company is a startup and does not have the capital to offer a base salary that is at or above market.
No VP of Sales is going to consider a job that doesn’t have a lot of financial potential, whether that comes through a traditional commission structure or substantial equity.
“A VP of Sales wants to make money and wants to make a lot of money on their stock. They want to make coin. Anyone that’s good is not going to join your company at $5,000 or $20,000 MRR a month, it’s just not going to happen.” – Jason Lempkin – CEO Echosign.
3. Colleagues who share their vision
If a VP doesn’t respect (or like) their colleagues, or if their colleagues don’t respect their strategic vision or management approach, it’s going to be difficult for them to be effective. When a VP is assessing a new opportunity, they want to know who they’ll be working with on a day-to-day basis. They want colleagues who will execute their vision, as well as a leadership team that supports their strategic philosophy.
4. A company that understands its corporate objectives
Every company needs a corporate strategy to succeed in today’s marketplace. A good corporate strategy determines where resources are allocated, how the competition stacks up, what markets to compete in, and what advantages the company has in order to meet their growth targets.
When a VP considers a new role, he or she wants to see that the leadership has outlined clear goals and needs for the business, and that they’re committed to helping the VP execute their sales strategy.
Whether the company is an early-stage startup that requires the VP to create a sales process, or is an established business that needs a VP revamp existing processes, the VP Sales wants to join a company that understands their corporate strengths, weaknesses, and growth objectives.
5. Opportunities for growth and change
Great salespeople will only join a company that offers growth, change, and the ability to rise within the organization. In fact, one in three employees leave their jobs because of a lack of career growth.
When a VP of Sales assesses a new opportunity, they want to know if the company is private and going public, or if there is an opportunity to move into a C-level position. They assess the role beyond the moment, looking to the future to see how they’ll be able to grow within the organization. Specifically, they will want to know if there is the opportunity to become the VP over a larger territory, or move into an Executive VP, Global VP, or President role.
6. Ability and autonomy to solve challenges and provide real value
When assessing a new position, a VP wants more than just a large paycheck and a great product. They want to know that their future employer will give them the autonomy necessary to make significant changes and solve critical problems that will drive selling costs down and revenue up.
At the VP level, autonomy is extremely important. VPs want to have complete P&L control over their region and staff. If they feel the leadership team will micromanage and try to direct their every move, they will pass on the position, regardless of the compensation or room for growth offered.
“A Sales VP won’t be content if they’re not able to provide value to an organization. The best VPs want to be confronted with challenges they’re excited to solve.” – Brent Thomson, CSO, Peak Sales Recruiting.
7. A proven leadership team
When a VP Sales is assessing a prospective employer, they want to know everything about its corporate leadership team including:
- Who is on the existing management team
- The structure of the management team
- The background of the management team
- How much autonomy the management team intends to provide the candidate
Sales VPs also want to know that they will have the ability to learn from other proven executives who possess unique business experiences and who value their perspective on how to achieve aggressive growth targets.
8. Organization stage
When a VP is considering joining a company, they want to know what stage the business is in.
Is the organization in the compete stage, where there is a deep need to build and grow a new sales team, or is the organization in the maintain stage, when there is an established sales force, but a need to continue to grow revenue without adding headcount?
Why does organization stage matter to a VP? Running a medium-sized $50 million sales department requires a much different skill set than leading a large billion-dollar sales organization.
When a VP Sales is assessing a new opportunity, they want to understand the challenge they’ll be faced with and if their experiences and skills sets will help them be successful. Will they need to come in and build out a sales team, or overhaul an existing process? The best VPs enjoy a challenge, are intrigued by the possibilities, and will join a company if they feel they can make a difference.
9. An ethical approach to selling
There are some sales teams that will do virtually anything to make a sale, and there are others who work to make ethical choices about selling.
Unethical sales practices damage sales numbers, and repels salespeople from joining the team. These unethical practices include executives and reps making promises about product developments that cannot be fulfilled, misrepresenting products or promotions to close deals, and not being transparent about price changes.
When a VP sales is scouting a new opportunity, they look carefully at the company’s sales philosophy and ask the following questions:
- Are the target numbers realistic?
- Are the sales methods ethical?
- Are the sales practices and approaches something I’m comfortable with?
10. Being set-up for success
If an organization doesn’t offer the best tools, infrastructure, and budget to its sales team, it won’t be very attractive to an established VP Sales. In order for VPs to be successful, they need the organization behind them, and want the right tools and processes to make their sales goals a reality.
For a list of the top sales management tools, read our Sales Management Tools Study results.
Job Traits for VP Sales
Proven VPs are highly sought-after by employers. In order for them to accept a new role, they must feel that the new opportunity provides the challenges, products, leadership and compensation that they need to be successful.
Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.
He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.
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