Published on November 8, 2014
The First Order of Business for a New VP/Head of Sales by Brendon Cassidy
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1. Brendon Cassidy 1st Head of Sales for LinkedIn (employee 25) Vice President of Sales for EchoSign (Acquired by Adobe)
2. It’s going to be hard. Be flexible. Most cannot do what you are endeavoring to do.
3. You know nothing until you know this. 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 nobody 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 least the last 3 months. Once you’ve weeded non MQLs out, you know.
4. Structure the Sales Organization Based on the Data, NOT what You Did in the Past. One of the most common mistake VPs of Sales in startups make (especially with folks coming out of bigger companies) is they try to replicate what they did in the past. One variable that’s different(lead velocity, ASP, sales cycle length, pricing model, target buyer) might mean you need to take a totally different approach. Step back before you put the playbook in place, look at the data, and compare it to what you’ve done before. Be objective. Be honest.
5. 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. If you expect marketing to do this, you are hosed.
6. Common mistake with first time VPs of Sales: Hiring good, smart talent so long as they aren’t 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.
7. 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 and product talent into the mix to fix it. There is always an answer better than the excuse.
8. 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.
9. 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 built it, the folks who have had the most success, they own the intellectual capital. Bringing in a sales executive might work, but it also will probably take them 6 months to know anything close to what the people he/she are managing know.
10. 70% to 75% of your life and time is spent working. Try to make it fun, rewarding, and worthwhile for yourself and for your team. Otherwise, what’s the point? Good luck!