Why a VP of Sales Should Be Your First Hire Instead of Your Last

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Starting a new business is hard work. It takes grit, determination, passion and patience.  And most of all, it takes discernment. Discernment, defined as “the ability to judge well,” is not something we normally equate with starting a business, but I would argue that it is one of the most important aspects of any business, not just start-ups.

We live in a world of information. We can find out anything, at any time, about any subject matter. We can look at accredited sites, blogs and social media – all giving us an “expert” opinion on practically any subject matter out there. So, in this new world of “experts,” how do we discern what roles to fill and who to hire when growing a business?

Sales Leadership – One Way of Thinking

As CEO, you may also function in the financial, operations and sales roles until you attain a certain level.  At that point, you then add your salespeople, who will then generate more revenue.  As long as you hire the “right” salesperson, you won’t need a sales manager because salespeople (as long as they are good) will just figure it out, right?  And, you won’t even need to look at a sales leader or a VP of Sales until you have at least 5 salespeople in place. Sound familiar?

This type of thought process is why most start-up companies take so long to generate revenue or even keep their doors open! They underestimate the vital importance of building a solid sales infrastructure that increases speed to competency and sets new sales hires up for success.  In order to achieve desired outcomes quickly and consistently, you must have a strong sales leader – a VP of Sales.

Sales Leadership – A Better Way of Thinking

Hiring a VP of Sales as your first resource provides the following:

  1. A solid, two-year revenue forecast built on bottom-up sales analysis and sales planning – not just top-down budgeting.
  2. A comprehensive hiring plan that will help you understand the skills you need in particular roles.
  3. A results-driven compensation plan customized to your organization.
  4. An extensive sales plan for each new hire that includes sales strategy, customized sales processes and metrics for success.
  5. Forecasting methodology customized for your organization to provide visibility into existing and future revenue opportunities.
  6. Automated dashboards to provide daily and weekly sales key performance indicators to the CEO.

Sales is important in any organization, but vital to a start-up.  The bottom line is that you don’t have a business if you don’t have sales.  There is no such thing as “the right salesperson.”  Some folks do have natural sales acumen and sales ability; however, all salespeople need a road map that encompasses four essential components:  (1) what am I selling, (2) why is it important, (3) how much money am I going to make, and (4) how am I going to be measured?  Investing in a solid sales infrastructure provides this roadmap and will generate sales quickly when your new sales hire comes on board.  That revenue will then provide the resources needed to staff other areas of your business.

As business owners, it’s always a good practice to assess and reassess your sales organization.  My short, 10-question Sales Agility Assessment provides a detailed report on what your business is doing well, and where there may be room for improvement.