5 Tips for a VP of Sales InterviewMay 12, 2022
First and foremost, you need to be interviewing them 10x harder than they're interviewing you. This is all assuming you're great at what you do and highly qualified for the job.
The risk you're taking is significantly greater than the risk they're taking. VP's are disposable and interchangeable, but the reputation and resume impact those quick shifts have can be dramatic for you, so finding the right employer is most important.
Understand your potential alignment with the CEO, their vision, and how they want to work with a VP Sales. Will they be coaching and mentoring you? Or will they be hands off and expecting things to happen without guidance? Do they have sales experience or are they learning from you? If the latter, do they actually trust you?
Picking the right stage company is critical. Although it doesn't mean everything, you need to see what's prepared and what isn't, what the existing team looks like, how hard it will be to build the right team, etc. Is sales operations in place? Do they understand the importance of investing in it up front? If it's not in place and well established, that's a big delay and initial workload for you. Do you know how to oversee sales ops? Can you recruit and manage a top sales ops leader?
How many VP Sales or Directors has the company had so far? How many has the CEO hired in the past at previous companies? They often assume they'll get it right and you'll be there forever, but that's like winning the lottery in today's world, so you need to be extremely cautious and unfortunately do a great job preparing for the worst. Use Pavilion's Executive Compensation Guide (linked below) to understand your rights and don't be scared to negotiate for terms you deserve. Most of these protections should not be hard for a great employer to give, but you'll be surprised how much pushback there will be, and that's where you realize how risky the job truly is. The more experience and leverage you have, the more protection you can negotiate. These details can make or break your financial success in the role.
Understand clearly what resources are available (marketing, IT, operations, HR, etc.) and assess exactly how much is going to land on your plate. If you're building a team from scratch with a CEO who's never done it before and it's early stage, you may end up with no HR, no marketing, no operations, no finance, etc. and you end up having to spend your time in all of these areas, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you have no clue how to do any of these things, it could be the wrong stage for you.
Every CEO/founder is completely different and that's what makes the job so challenging. It's completely different every single time because founders are all completely different and rarely were any of them taught in any formal way, how to actually do what they're doing (hiring you and leading you). So most often you'll end up in a role where you have very little actual leadership and usually zero formal training. You have to be capable of thriving in that type of environment while balancing enormous pressure on your shoulders, that generally only gets heavier as time goes by, no matter how good or bad you do. This is just the nature of leading sales in a hyper growth company. If you crush a stretch target, it must not have been set right so we need to stretch farther, because, why not? This is all a healthy mindset for any growing business, but it bears heavy weight on the shoulders of the person who is ultimately responsible for delivering the results, which in this case, would be you should you truly want to become a VP of Sales.
Hopefully these tips not only prepare you for your interview but help shine light on what to ultimately prepare yourself for if you land the gig.
I did focus on negatives here, but trust me, there's a lot of reward to building and leading a sales org as long as you're cut out for it and land at the right company.
Here is an Executive Compensation Guide that will explain all of the details around what you should consider negotiating for. I strongly suggest joining the Pavilion community and seeking further guidance within.
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