Dear SaaStr: What Are The Traits That Define a Great VP?

The difference between a Good, a Great, and a Mediocre VP:

  • A Good VP Maintains Velocity in Their Functional Area. This is hard enough as it is. If you grew 100% last year, growing 100% again this year is more complex. It’s not the same amount of work. You need more people, more process, more training, more or everything. Most VPs can’t even do this. A Good VP keeps the ship sailing on the same course, at the same pace.
  • While A Great VP Increases Velocity in Their Functional Area. A great VP goes even further and increases velocity in her area. She brings in even better reps, and the revenue per rep goes up. Or she brings in more leads for the same budget. Or drives the engineering team to ship more features per quarter. A great VP of Customer Success in just a quarter or so decreases churn and increases account revenue growth. This is hard. It’s hard enough just to maintain KPIs and metrics as you scale. But the great ones increase them. And quickly. Usually in one quarter or less. More here:…
  • Now … a Mediocre VP Oversees Slowly Decelerating Velocity. This is the risk you take when you settle. Sales growth slowly declines as she struggles to bring in enough reps. Leads stall out as the channels start to get fatigued. Churn slowly increases. These changes don’t happen overnight. But they slowly build. Often on the back of a lot of excuses. She will tend to blame a lot of external factors (which likely are actually true). And then 4, 5, 6 months later — you end up in a deep hole. But it can take 6+ months for everyone to agree it is happening, and align on the root cause.
  • And a Bad VP Oversees Rapidly Decelerating Velocity.  Things are often worse in just 60-90 days.  Worse than before they joined.  Be honest when you see this.  This does happen more often than you’d think.  Take say, 100 leads a month spread across 2 great reps, then you bring in a new VP of Sales that hires 4-6 more weak reps that never learn the product.  All of a sudden, those 100 leads are stretched across 6-8 folks, most of which can’t close, and only 2 that can.  Your new bookings can plummet 50% almost overnight.

So net net, look for upgrades in the first 60 days for any VP. If you don’t see them, at least at a qualitative level, they aren’t great. They may still be good, but not great.  And if it’s worse?  You made a mis-hire.  That’s on you, not them.  But you’ll be better off with No VP than what you have.

And don’t make excuses for a deterioration in metrics after you make the hire. A great VP won’t.

You will have rough quarters and every a rough year or two, for sure. But a Great VP will get ahead of that. They’ll know even before you do, and already be working on solutions.

And what if you don’t see much improvement, but also no deceleration?  That’s trickier.  At least, don’t move on from that VP without doing an honest, data-driven root cause analysis.  More here:

Should You Fire an OK-but-Not-Great VP of Sales? Probably Not (Updated)


Finally, how do you become one of these VPs? Train under one first, if you can. Try to work for the best possible VP you can. And watch how she recruits, trains, and backfills her team. Emulate her. Then, manage a small team. And learn how to recruit 1–2 great folks to work under you. If you can all three, you’re on the path.

(Note: an updated Classic SaaStr Answer)

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