The First Order of Business for a New VP of Sales

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This session is titled The First Order of Business for a new VP of Sales by Brendan Cassidy, VP of Sales at TalkDesk.


Three things to understand when you’re about to enter a start-up:

  1. It’s going to be hard.

  2. Be flexible.

  3. Most cannot do what you are endeavoring to do.

Step 1 – Establish the True Lead Velocity Within the Business

  • You don’t know anything until you understand your lead velocity

  • Questions to ask

    • Is there someone running marketing?

    • Is there established criteria around what a lead is?

  • If someone is running marketing, and you align with their definition of an MQL, the model should be fairly easy to build.

  • If there is no one in marketing, then you need to define what an MQL is and then retroactively assign an MQL status to every lead that came in for the last three months. Once you’ve weeded out all the non-MQL’s, you’re at a true north point from which to scale the business.

Step 2 – Once lead velocity is established:

  • Structure the sales organization based on the data, not on what you’ve done in the past.

  • One common mistake that VPs of Sales do is they try to replicate exactly what they’ve done in the past

Step 3- Put in the playbook. Hint: Keep it Simple

  • You are making your customers lives easier. Not harder. Sell accordingly.

  • Make the pricing easy to understand and transparent

  • Sell to your strengths

  • Understand your weaknesses. Make sure your sales people understand your weaknesses. Make your weaknesses a strength

  • Understand how your competitors are attacking you

Step 4 – Hire the Best Talent. Period. (That’s on YOU)

  • Common mistake with the first time VPs of Sales – hiring good, smart talented people as long as they’re not smarter than you. Get past your own insecurities. If you hire someone smarter than you, that’s a good thing.

  • Try to hire your core, early team from within your extended network. Not your first 2 or 3. Your first 10.

  • Why? Because you reduce risk if someone is vouched for by people you know? Your best hires are going to come through your network. Period.

  • If you don’t have a network. Start now. Today. It will pay off later.

Step 5 – Always seek solutions. Not excuses.

  • You weren’t hired to tell the CEO why it can’t be done

  • If there are no leads, then you need to build an aggressive outbound sales development organization. Maybe even 1 to 1 SDR to AE. And it’s not going to be cheap.

  • If you do have some lead velocity, identify exactly how many leads you need marketing to commit to in order to scale to 10, 20 , 50, 100 sales people. This is easy to model.

  • If the product doesn’t work, help your CEO recruit the right engineering.

Step 6 – Pay your sales people above market rate for performance.

  • Hiring great talent is hard

  • Retaining great talent is even harder

  • If you are cheap, you’re dead. Period.

  • You can do all of this and make sales an accretive profit center, not a cost center.

Step 7 – Promote from within

  • Build a meritocracy. If you want your top performers to stay with you through multiple stages of growth, give them a path to realize their ambitions.

  • Remember – the folks that build your team own the intellectual capital. Bringing in a sales executive might work, but it won’t ultimately help you scale.

Step 8 – Have fun!

  • 70 to 75% of your life and time will be spent working. Try to make it as fun and rewarding as possible.