A ways back at SaaStr, we did a post “If Your VP Sales Isn’t Going to Work Out — You’ll Know in 30 Days”.  At first, so many VPs of Sales I know hated the post.  You need to give folks more time they said!  30 days isn’t enough they said!  But I challenged them to re-read the post and think about it.  And later, all the good ones agreed.  A great VP can’t always double sales in a month or two.  But they can improve things.  For real.  And just improving things quickly, in the first 30 days, has a big impact in SaaS.

So I just have one tip here, a variant of the 30 Day Test, but trust me, it will save you a lot of time and stress:

You’ll know if that new VP is going to fail at the first board meeting.

Now first, this trick requires you have your VPs present at board meetings.  And of course, that you have board, or at least investor meetings, at all.  More on that here.  But if you do, make sure each VP presents for 10 minutes at least.  And each new VP, give them a little extra time at their first board meeting.

And watch and listen.  See if she/he:

  • Evaluates their team.  If the VP hasn’t decided who to keep, who to promote, and who to replace by the first week, let alone the first board meeting, they aren’t a real VP.  They can’t hire.  A good/great VP presents the state of their team at the first board meeting, and how they are leveling it up.  It’s the most important way to put more points on the board — in any department.  A mediocre or fake VP doesn’t have any changes to make.
  • Shares what’s working, and what isn’t, and why.  A great VP has this figured out by the first board meeting.  Because they’ve seen it before.  But a mediocre or fake VP is still “learning” what works and what doesn’t.  They’ll say they don’t know yet and are “still digging in”.
  • Shares the key metrics they plan to improve.  How they are going to grow revenue, or leads, or story points, or whatever.  A great VP has figured out the current velocity of their department, and has a clean, quantitative plan to improve it.  By the first board meeting.
  • Shows a lot of respect for what’s working in other departments.  A great VP of Sales highlights what’s going well in marketing, or product, etc. in their first board meeting.  Because they know it’s a team effort.
  • Has a clear, sensible 60-90 day plan.  Whatever the exact period is, a good/great VP always has a 60/90 plan they present at the first board meeting.  It isn’t perfect.  But it almost always makes sense at least.
  • Speaks with data.  By the time you hire a VP, you should have data.  Data on your first 100 customers.  Your first 1,000 prospects.  Data.  The best VPs dig into it quickly and have opinions based on data.  Not just the seat of their pants.

If you don’t see this in the first board meeting with that VP, you don’t have a real VP.  They can’t recruit.  They can’t scale.  They can’t figure it out.  Or at least — it’s not the right fit for them.

A mediocre VP is often “still learning” at the first board meeting, and doesn’t present any of the above, or very little of it.

So sorry.  Sorry that VP you just brought in is a mismatch.  At least, when you see it in the first board meeting, you can course-correct faster.



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