So much has changed the past few years on the people side in SaaS and tech.  Perhaps the biggest change though is how many folks want to manage a team, versus do the work themselves. 

The 1000+ unicorns of Covid fueled this, with ample capital to hire, hire and hire.  And so did a bit of laziness that creeped into many of us during the past few years. Things really were easier for many of us in 2021.

The other day I interviewed yet another other great AE who had recently become a Director of Sales.  He said he really, really wanted to “go for it now”, get a big house, a new car, and more.  I pushed him and pushed him on the role, though.  “You know you’ll have to actually do sales yourself at this startup?  Not just hire and manage people?”.  He finally got it.  He took a pause and said, “Yeah, I just don’t want to work that hard.

Then yesterday I talked to a very talented director of customer success who really, really seemed to want a role.  I explained to them the job would entail going really deep with customers, meeting them, and owning the deliverables.  “No thanks,” they said.  “I just want to focus on process.”

I hear this story and this exact phrase again and again these days.  Constantly.  You can hear the CMOs of Zapier and HubSpot echo it as well here:

And I also see so many VPs and Directors and Managers flame out when they take a start-up role … and don’t really want to do all the hard work themselves.

I think my best advice is this, in 2024:

Make Sure Any VP You Hire Does The Job Themselves First.  Before They Hire Anymore.  Period.

We used to do it this way.  But as everything got bigger, rounds got bigger, and everyone grew faster, we sort of let it go.  It’s time to get back to basics:

  • A new VP of Sales has to carry a bag at first — and close customers themselves at first.  I see way, way too many new VPs of Sales just focus on hiring and process, and never truly learn to sell the product themselves.
  • A new VP of Marketing has to do demand gen themselves at first.  Send all the campaigns for the first 60 days.  Host the first customer webinars.  Write copy and content themselves.  Not just hire a team of 5 and a bunch of agencies to do it.  And again, never do any of it themselves.
  • A new VP of Customer Success has to go visit 10+ customers in person during their first 14-30 days.  Period.  I interviewed several seasons VPs of CS in the past 12 months that didn’t believe in this.  They thought the first 90 days should be all about “learning” and process, not visiting.  Hmmm.  If a head of CS doesn’t visit your top customers in their first week — they never really will.

A simple point?  Perhaps.  But one we sort of forgot about the past few years in our rush to get our VP hires done.

Let’s get back to basics here.  If you hire a VP that never does the actual job themselves, well, it’s super high risk.  Super high. So just ask.  Ask.

Ask in the interviews.  Ask what they’d do the first 30 days.  Ask that VP of Sales if they’d carry a bag.  Ask the VP of Marketing if they’ll do the campaigns themselves.  8 times out of 10, you’ll learn — “No.”

Then you know.

A related post here:

Yes, Your VP of Sales Also Has to Be a Great Salesperson Themselves

(Team image from here)

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