Recently, I met with a great SaaS founder doing about $1.5m in ARR.  She was telling me about her VP of Marketing who, in the Bay Area, she was paying $95,000.  I was a bit skeptical.  Because that’s rather low for a true VP out here in the Bay Area (see typical VP Marketing comp packages here).  Something sounded off.

I asked how about this VPM’s lead commit.  Their opportunity commit.  What their core KPIs were.

No lead commit, or revenue commit.   OK.   No real quant goals at all.  Well.  You know where this is going on SaaStr.


OK my next question, OK this VPM must be new.  How long have they been there?

“9 months.”


Well.  Then, this VPM may be great.  But.  He will never.  Ever.  Never.  Get you leads.  Ever.  It’s too late.

I see this all the time in marketing hires that come out of non-demand gen roles.  More on that here.  But sometimes I’m wrong.  Sometimes a marketing lead with a corporate marketing or even product marketing background actually signs up for a lead or other commit.  For real.

But when they do — it’s always in the first 90 days, or sooner.  If a VP doesn’t do something you expect them to do in the first 90 days — then they never will.  Not really.

Here’s a list of where I see this:

  • A head of / director / VP of Marketing that doesn’t get you new leads in 90 days, true new MQLs … Never will.
  • A head of sales that doesn’t recruit at least one strong rep in the first 90 days that hits quota or better …  Never will.
  • A head of product that doesn’t take over the roadmap, and redirect the engineering team to do something better, faster, and bigger … Never will.
  • A head of customer success that doesn’t own churn, or net revenue retention in the first 90 days … Can’t. They never will.  They’re a best-efforts kind of guy.
  • A head of engineering that doesn’t increase output, or similar new feature velocity in the first 90 days … never really will.  Likely, they will just be lost in figuring out technical debt and other issues.

I can go on.  And really, it starts to happen in the first 30 days.  90 days is generous.

A VP of Sales that has never done outbound, if they don’t take it on fairly early — they never really will.  At least, not well.  Some will argue that it makes sense to wait sometimes.  But the top VPs of Sales know you have to get it going soon.  By the same token, a VP of Sales that has only done Big Deals and Field Sales and never really managed a high-velocity inside team … if they don’t put one together fairly soon, and take ownership of … they never really will.  Not well.  Not a great one.

We do what we are good at, most of us.  The best of us also work hard to stretch.  And when we stretch, we bring in the help, the resources that know how to do what we don’t know how to.  We bring in great people in the areas we don’t know.  The best ones.  Because we have to.

What the failures do instead is bring in a mediocre resource, because the VP doesn’t know how to do it either.  He brings in someone too junior or mediocre.  Someone with 12 months experience, reporting to someone who didn’t really do it.  Someone that can’t possibly help the VP who hasn’t done it himself.

Net net, no VP can do it all.  No way.  Especially when most of you are hiring Stretch VPs in your first management team.  No VPS can be great at inbound, outbound, field, SMB, Enterprise, Channel Partners, Strategic Accounts, High-Velocity Sales.  No way you can be great at it all.

But at least, make a clear list of what you expect each VP to do.  And whatever they make no real progress on in 90 days — push more if you want.  But really, write it off.  And either down-spec their role and keep them, and make them a success, just in a more bounded role than you’d hoped.

Or move on.

(note: an updated SaaStr Classic post)


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