What is a Vice President of Sales?
The Vice President of Sales is responsible for setting the vision and leading the sales department.
As a people manager and key revenue driver, this role has a direct impact on the business’s bottom line. This can be even larger in startups where the VP of Sales is not only setting the sales organization’s vision and sales targets but often building out the entire sales teams from the ground-up and still closing a lot of deals themselves. The culture of the sales team (or in some cases lack thereof) trickles down across other departments from marketing and customer service to product and engineering.
This role typically reports to the founder or CEO.
The VP of Sales role looks different in larger, more established companies:
- For one, they are often the market leader in their industry and simply trying to stay on top. This “maintain” sales strategy is a lot different than a startup who is looking to beat out all of the competitors to become the market leader.
- They also report to the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) instead of the founder or CEO.
When should you hire a VP of Sales?
Companies should hire a VP of Sales when they are ready to scale their sales team and already have initial, organic momentum.
This is easier said than done as many startups, in particular, get this wrong. Many hire for this role too early, and this can end up destroying any momentum you had as well as hurting team morale.
If you hire a VP of Sales too early, they’ll be tempted to go on a hiring spree growing the team before enough deals close, which can seriously eat into your cash flow and profitability.
Here are some telltale signs that you are ready to hire a VP of Sales:
- At least 2 Sales Development Representatives (SDRs)
- At least 2 account executives (i.e. closers) or business development executives
- Over $1M in ARR and likely have product-market fit (or on the cusp of it)
- Been in business for more than two years
However, the most important thing is the relationship between this person and the founder or CEO. If there is a personality mismatch, work philosophy or their communication styles don’t mesh well, the chances of it working out are slim.
VP of Sales Compensation
According to our report, the VP of Sales in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City earn the most. They net an average of $180,000 - $250,000 in base salary and $360,000 - $500,000 OTE.
|San Francisco, CA||New York, NY||Austin, TX||Chicago, IL||Los Angeles, CA|
|Base | OTE||Base | OTE||Base | OTE||Base | OTE||Base | OTE|
|$180-250K | $360-500K||$180-250K | $360-500K||$140-200K | $280-400K||$180-250K | $360-500K||$180-250K | $360-500K|
What are a VP of Sales' responsibilities?
A VP of Sales’ day-to-day responsibilities include:
- Leading the sales organization to hit their numbers
- Hiring, interviewing and onboarding sales team members
- Help the sales team close big deals, identify significant opportunities and remove any obstacles
- Managing direct and indirect reports including any Directors of Sales and Sales Managers
- Create sales strategies including revenue forecasts, team planning, and the overall department budget
- Build out education and training programs to ensure sales team members are equipped with the right material on how to use all tools and systems as well as that they know the products or services they are selling inside out.
- Improve sales efficiency and processes to close more deals including implementing new technology when applicable
- Monitoring sales team morale and implementing performance bonus programs
- Collaborates with the marketing department to generate qualified leads and create sales enablement collateral.
What does success look like for a VP of Sales?
Most companies measure their VP of Sales based on team performance metrics. Here are some KPI examples:
- Sales growth
- Market share (i.e. market penetration)
- Sales pipeline volume
- Number of sales qualified leads (SQLs)
- Sales pipeline conversion rate
- Average time to close a deal
- Onboarding time for new hires
What skills does a VP of Sales need to possess?
In our experience, while a VP of Sales needs to have extensive sales experience, there are many personality traits and soft skills to consider including their leadership style, personality type, communication approach and how they mesh with the founder(s).
Here are some skills to look for:
- Natural leader - Regardless of their management style and personality, they need to be comfortable setting the direction and leading a sales team.
- Extensive sales experience - While they don’t need to be the number one closer, they should have a lot of experience negotiating large deals.
- Great people manager - One of the key responsibilities of this person is to lead the sales department. This includes coaching both direct and indirect reports to help them hit their quotas.
- Resilient - Sales is a tough job, and you’ll encounter a lot of “Nos” and setbacks.
- Self-aware - They need to have a high emotional IQ and have a firm grasp of their strengths and weaknesses.
- Charismatic - A significant part of a VP of Sales’ job is to help close big deals as well as hiring sales team members. Being likable and able to put people at ease quickly is a real advantage.
- Consistent - Sales is about systems and processes. The VP of Sales is responsible for ensuring that everything is uniformed and consistent from tools to reporting.
- Tech-savvy - You need to be able to vet technology vendors to ensure your team has the latest tools so they can do their jobs better.