Good blog post by sales author Lee Salz on his personal experiences interviewing for a VP position and what to ask a potential VP Sales candidate….

He talks about the bottom line questions that CEO’s like to ask – “So, how much revenue can you drive for us this year?” and why you should be wary of someone who has a quick response.

The right answer is it depends – on a whole lot! “How many sales people can I hire?What is the marketing budget?What is the travel budget?What is the budget for cost of sales?”

He suggests five critical areas to explore of your candidate (and revenue growth commitment is not one of them).

Sales force Recruitment. If you have decided to hire a Vice President of Sales, you are expecting them to build a sales team. Hiring sales people is both risky and costly. The ideal candidate for this role should have a methodology that mitigates the risk and quickly gets the new hire up to speed. Bad hires kill the bottom-line, but so do unproductive sales people. Every day that a new sales person is on the bench, not yet ready to generate sales, they sit on your books as a liability. Thus, a key skill that the ideal candidate will possess is development of a process to screen and “on-board” new sales team members.

Sales Process Development. One of the goals of having a sales organization is to establish consistent performance. This can only happen if a defined process has been established for the sales people to follow. Many companies hang their hat on the performance of a single rainmaker. One person generating 75% of the revenue means that you have one highly profitable team member and a bunch of unprofitable sales people on the team. What happens if the rain maker leaves for greener pastures? Having a well-defined sales process in place reduces the amount of time for new hires to get up to speed as well as provides continued direction and focus for the tenured sales people. This translates into another key benefit which is scalability. Your company’s ability to experience significant growth resides on this leader’s acumen at building a process that leads the entire team to perform.

Compensation Plan Formulation. In many companies, one of the responsibilities of the Vice President of Sales is the formulation of a sales compensation plan. Sales compensation plans should be designed to reinforce the sales process that has been developed. One thing about sales people is that they do not need a job description to tell them their job. The compensation plan tells them where to focus their time. The wrong plan can tank the company…the right plan can lead to explosive results. Thus, this becomes a critical skill that your ideal candidate must possess. To learn more about developing the right compensation plan, read my article titled, “The Equilateral Triangle Model for Developing Sales Compensation Plans.”

Metric Management. In many sales environments, today’s sale is not necessarily an indication of a sales person doing the right things now. Thus, you are paying commissions for what they did right a month, three months, or maybe a year ago. This makes it critical that other metrics are measured beyond revenue achievement. There is an old expression…what gets measured, gets done. In essence, the process that they create has multiple measurement points that allows for the creation for a dashboard. The metrics on this dashboard show the performance of the sales team and allow for intervention when performance is not meeting expectations. Thus the key is to understand how the candidate uses metrics to develop, manage, and grow their sales team.

Performance Management. The world would be a wonderful place if every sales person hired performs like a rock star, but that doesn’t happen. You will have both over-achievers and subpar performers…and each requires a different management approach. Top performers need nurturing, appreciation, and growth opportunities while subpar performers need support, guidance, and intervention. Handle the top performers wrong and they leave. Handle the subpar performers incorrectly and they can suck the profits from the company. Thus, in the interview process, it is important to understand the candidate’s management approach for different situations.

I tend to agree with Lee although we still ask the revenue question because we want to know a. how sophisticated someone is, and b. how much research and prep they have done coming into the meeting. Beyond that, Lee is right, you need to have information before you can answer a “commit” question like that.

His full article is available on his blog….

To your success!


Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

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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