Who you hire as your Vice President of Sales is a crucial decision that can have a huge impact on your company's success. As an integral part of your leadership team, you definitely don't want to take this lightly.
As with any hiring process, the usual rule of thumb applies: Starting with the interview process, you should begin by defining the role (which should be clearly outlined in the job description), looking for a candidate with a proven track record of success in SaaS sales teams, ensuring cultural fit, and providing a comprehensive onboarding and training program.
With these robust processes in place you'll be ready to hire the perfect fit for your company.
But we wanted to get deeper into this and ask SaaS leaders what they look for when looking to hire a VP of sales. Check out what seven prominent SaaS gurus had to say.
You'll be on your way to hiring a great VP of sales in no time! And if they're able to follow these expert tips for effective sales organization, you'll be one step closer to scaling your SaaS org.
"In today's fast-paced SaaS industry, finding the right sales leader is critical for driving success and growth. The role of a sales leader in a SaaS organization is not just about hitting targets but also about inspiring, mentoring, but also to work closely with the sales team, guiding them to close deals and achieve overall success.
When hiring a sales leader, I look for qualities such as customer focus, adaptability, strategic thinking, and the ability to lead by example.
Also, I look for a few key qualities that demonstrate that the individual is capable of driving sales success within the organization. These qualities are:
- Strong Leadership Skills: A sales leader must have the ability to inspire, motivate and lead a team of sales professionals. They should have excellent communication skills, be able to make data-driven decisions, and be able to manage and delegate tasks effectively.
- Industry Knowledge: A good VP of sales should have a deep understanding of the SaaS industry, including the latest trends, technologies, and competitive landscape. This knowledge is critical for developing and executing a successful sales strategy.
- Sales Experience: A successful sales leader should have a proven track record of achieving sales targets. They should have experience in creating and implementing sales processes, building and managing a sales pipeline, and closing deals.
- Customer Focus: A sales leader should have a deep understanding of their target customers, their pain points, and their decision-making processes. They should be capable of building strong relationships with customers and be able to understand their needs and tailor their sales approach accordingly.
- Adaptability: The SaaS industry is constantly evolving, and a successful sales leader should be able to adapt to changing market conditions, customer requirements, and organizational goals. They should be able to pivot their sales strategy when necessary and be able to stay ahead of the curve."
Ameet Mehta, Founder, SyndicationPro
"In a rapidly advancing industry, staying ahead of the game takes a unique combination of passion, drive, and expert communication skills, so these are the most important traits we’re looking for in a sales leader paired with a deep understanding of the current changes in customer behavior and the evolution of sales processes.
Top sales leaders are big-picture thinkers, data-driven, tech-savvy and show a good balance between their strategic and tactical abilities. They must excel in articulating their vision and a clear plan for how they want to run the business, but not shy away from hands-on work.
Last, but not least, a big part of a sales leader’s job is building and maintaining relationships with both internal and external stakeholders, so he or she must be skilled at building trust and credibility, expanding their network and identifying new business opportunities."
Ralf Ebbinghaus, Chief Commercial Officer, Enreach
"The foremost important quality you should look for while interviewing or hiring a sales leader is his/her communication skills, i.e. how he connects with the prospect. Customers never buy the product, they buy the solution to the problem they are facing, which will be provided by the candidate.
Therefore, the sales manager needs to have a firm grasp of verbal communication so that they can take the most complicated tech knowledge, explain it in layman's terms and persuade the prospect. Rejections are an essential part of sales.
The candidate’s ability to handle rejection is a significant determinant. Having a ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off’ attitude is an important trait. One important question you should always ask the candidate is ‘how often do you take follow-ups?’
The answer to this question will give insights into whether the candidate can crack his way with the customer. Follow-ups are essential to keep yourself fresh in the memory of your prospects and make them realize the importance of your product."
Vighnesh Shankar, Sales Account Manager at SafetyConnect
"When I'm hiring for a sales leader, I look for someone who is a great communicator with both their team and their customers. It's essential that they have the ability to explain how our product works and put it into context for each of these groups.
The best salespeople also have strong listening skills; they're able to hear what customers are saying (and not saying) and adjust their pitch accordingly. They need to understand what their clients are trying to accomplish and how we can help them do it better.
Finally, someone who wants to be a sales leader should have a passion for helping other people succeed; they should want to see their clients succeed as much as they want to see themselves succeed."
Gauri Manglik, CEO & Co-founder of Instrumentl
"Traditionally, sales professionals are promoted based on performance, and while this is a good benchmark, using performance as the sole indicator of leadership material is fundamentally flawed.
When promoting based on performance, it’s easy, and even logical, to assume that your sales team will produce results similar to that of their leader. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sales is not static; wins and losses ebb and flow, but if there is one thing that stays the same in sales, it’s that resilience is key to success.
I have found that my most resilient sales leaders are those that adapt quickly to changes, exhibit authentic empathy for customers and colleagues, and think creatively to overcome challenges.
You’ll never be able to make 3D replications of your top performers simply by promoting them, and that should never be your goal.
Each one of your team members has unique strengths that can be used to supercharge your sales cycle. By hiring an adaptive, empathetic, and creative sales leader, your sales reps should be able to meet and hopefully exceed their sales goals month-over-month."
Vito Vishnepolsk , Founder and Director at Martal Group
"There are three key qualities of an impactful B2B SaaS sales leader:
Empathetic: Leaders get the best of their teams when they’re able to put people first. They need to have empathy for the challenges in the role of the individual SDR or AE. They must be able to sense what a prospect is feeling and read between the lines to deliver the answer they’re looking for.
Bias for Action Mindset: SaaS customers are actively searching for a quick solution to an active problem. The best sales leaders recognize this sense of urgency. They’re willing to design a sales process that matches the needs of the customer or build that urgency within customers – and encourage the entire team to step up. They’re not afraid to meet a fast deadline and they’re always focused on taking action to find a solution versus talking about the problem.
Data-Centered: High-performing B2B SaaS sales leaders recognize that effective sales team management must be anchored in clean, complete sales activity data.They prioritize tools and processes that track the whole picture of what their reps are doing. They use this to build out a formula for reps to follow, and continually guide them towards success with accountability and real-time coaching."
Haggai Levi, Co-Founder & CEO of SetSail
"Early on after hiring, they’ve got to be willing to roll the sleeves up and sell with the team, but able to look 6-12 months out and make sure the foundations for growth are there.
They also have to be comfortable rolling with the ups and downs, left turns, right turns and U-turns of being at a startup (it's like being on a dirt road vs on a freeway ... it's going to be bumpy and you might even roll the truck at times but you’ve got to have the mental roll cage to get back on your wheels and keep moving forward).
The sales leader must establish board presence and they’ve got to be able to hold their own with board/CEO/CFO on realistic expectations.
Once they become more established, they’ve got to think more strategically about multiple channels to market and growth levers, and implement the foundational tools and processes on which growth can be built.
But whatever stage they’re at, they should be commercially excellent, of high integrity, and able to attract and retain great talent."
Andrew Monaghan, Founder & CEO Unstoppable.do
To wrap up
Hiring a VP of Sales for a SaaS company is a crucial decision that can significantly impact the success of the organization. When looking for a sales leader, it's essential to define the role, ensure cultural fit, and provide comprehensive onboarding and training programs.
According to six leading SaaS gurus, some of the most important qualities to look for in a sales leader include strong leadership skills, industry knowledge, sales experience, customer focus, adaptability, passion, drive, expert communication skills, a bias for action mindset, and empathy.
Additionally, the ability to handle rejection, build and maintain relationships, articulate a clear vision, balance strategic and tactical abilities, and help others succeed are also essential traits of a successful sales leader. By prioritizing these qualities during the hiring process, SaaS companies can find the perfect fit to drive success and growth.
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