Sometimes the VP of Sales position is a great new opportunity. Other times, it is a role destined for failure. To understand whether the job is suitable, candidates must ask the right questions.
The interview is your opportunity to understand the company and boss. Throughout the interview, the VP candidate should look for these three qualities:
- Performance Conditions: Does the current environment allow the Sales VP to be as effective as possible? If not, would the Sale VP have authority to change these conditions? Be cautious of any role where every decision must be approved by your boss.
- Culture Fit: Do you like your would-be boss? Is this company aligned with your beliefs? Does their pace of work and appetite for change match yours? Don’t overlook this—this is one of the biggest reasons for failure.
- Job Expectations: Are the expectations of the VP role reasonable? Do they align with your expertise? CEOs have very different expectations of this role. Some expect the VP of Sales to be a “Super Rep”. Others want somebody who can increase productivity and capability throughout the department.
Download our guide, 10 Questions for The CEO. We’ve included 10 Total Questions, Good Responses, and “Red Flag” answers.
Here are three critical questions a VP of Sales Candidate should be prepared to ask.
What happened to the last guy?
Don’t accept blasé answers like, “He resigned because he wanted to spend more time with his family”. VPs leave when they
- feel unappreciated
- are overwhelmed
- have limited authority
- hate their boss
- miss their number
Demand on honest answer. Ask yourself if this exit reason can be avoided. If not, look elsewhere.
Red Flags: CEO complains about entire sales department as a cost center. Talks about previous VP of Sales in completely negative terms. Fires the VP after a limited time horizon (1 year or under). Gives you the BS “family time” line.
What would your colleagues say about working with you?
Research has shown that asking someone to self-assess gives you unreliable information. A “tell me what X would say about you” paints a clearer picture.
If the CEO only talks about the positives, ask for shortcomings.
Red Flags: Anything about being super detail oriented, a control freak, or untrustworthy. Any grandiose responses about how great he is. Unable to acknowledge opportunities for improvement.
What was the quota and actual performance last year? What is the quota this year? How did you decide on that number?
Alright, this is really three big questions. But the follow up questions are critical. Every candidate is promised an On Target Earnings (OTE) figure. This is contingent on how accurately the quota is set. If you can’t hit it, you’re not getting the incentive pay promised.
Red Flags: Big gap between performance and quota. Pie-in-the-sky market share figures determines quota. Board of directors looks to Wall Street estimates for your quota. No historical performance, account penetration, or product maturity calculated in quota.
The best way to avoid failure is to decline a role with impossible expectations. Get the necessary information by asking the right questions. We speak with many Sales VPs. Many have one short stint on their resume. Something “didn’t work out” because they sped past the red flags. Download our 10 Questions for The CEO Sheet, and get these and more questions for your interview.
Readers: Is there any question you wish you had asked before accepting a Sales VP position?