“I coulda been a contender.”


Just like Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, you’re now muttering these words to yourself. You thought you were a shoo-in for VP of sales. But the CEO picked one of your fellow sales managers instead.


Are you afraid this will happen to you?


Maybe the current VP is nearing retirement. Or maybe he or she isn’t making the number. Either way, the search for a new sales VP is right around the corner. You or any one of your peers could be considered a viable candidate.


There’s no time to lose. Stop what you’re doing, and ask yourself:


Am I the obvious choice for VP of sales? Or a first-round reject?


Here’s how you can tell—and what to do if you fear you’re the latter.


You May Be Sabotaging Yourself if . . .  

If you exhibit any of these signs, it’s unlikely you’ll make the cut. We’ll explain how you can begin boosting your chances today.


#1 – You’re not performing like an A-Player.

Problem: You’re forcing your boss to expend political capital to defend you to the CEO.


What You Can Do:

Be an Ultimate Sales Manager. Help the current VP of sales as much as possible. Take control of your region and consistently meet your sales quota. Keep your boss informed. Be proactive. Look for ways to solve his or her headaches.


#2 – You’re invisible to the CEO.

Problem: You haven’t distinguished yourself in the eyes of the CEO. Therefore you don’t stand out in the field of potential candidates. 


What You Can Do:

Ask for additional exposure for your personal development. Seize opportunities that will allow you to lead or participate in strategic discussions.


  • Make a presentation to the CEO’s staff meeting.
  • Work with the CEO on a specific initiative.
  • Update the CEO on an initiative for which you volunteered.


#3 – You’re not benefiting others with your expertise.

Problem: You could be doing more to mentor or assist your sales reps and peers.


What You Can Do:

Renew your focus on coaching and leading your team. Do what you can to help other sales managers achieve their goals. Participate in the interview process for new sales reps and managers. Train your replacement to ensure a smooth transition for everyone.


#4 – You’re not wowing the leadership team.

Problem: You haven’t made much of an impression on the CFO, COO, VP of marketing, and VP of product development. These are the people who will help the CEO choose a new sales VP.


What You Can Do:

Lean into their organizations. Understand these leaders’ problems and perspectives. Make sure you’re always doing the right thing—and not creating heartburn.


  • To impress the VP of operations, adhere to all legal policies. Price and quote things appropriately. Ensure new products and services are implemented smoothly.


  • For the marketing VP, sell the leads he or she gives you. Provide feedback on marketing campaigns. Make sure campaigns in your region are hitting their targets.


 Bottom Line: Keep Growing, and Be Ready

If your goal is to become sales VP, you have to do the job before you get the job. That means you’ll have to improve your game, starting now, and raise your profile.


We’ve developed a tool that can help: the VP of Sales Competency Assessment. It comes complete with a list of key VP of Sales competencies and skill sets. We’ve also added hypothetical situations that will test your VP of Sales capabilities.  


Download the assessment tool here.