Congrats, you’ve just landed your first VP or Head of Sales role.

Now what?

I’ve met with hundreds of heads of sales over the years, and it’s easy to pick out the ones who are going to be successful and the ones who aren’t.

The successful VPs have one obvious thing in common: they are maniacally focused on building a revenue engine for their companies.

The less successful ones put together an ad-hoc combination of people and processes and hope for the best. Or they rely solely on marketing to drop leads on their desks.

A great VP of Sales views his role as the mechanic that ensures that each piece of the engine is working properly and in harmony – both from within the sales team itself and within the broader organization.

Think about an engine and how it works: each part scoops the next part which scoops the next and the next – the ignition key turns, the battery circuit is closed, the starting motor rotates the turning gear, the turning gear rotates the crankshaft, the pistons move up and down the cylinder, and so on. The end result is that they all work in harmony together, with each one playing an integral role to generate power.

The ultimate goal is to have the engine running smoothly and successfully, and in B2B sales that equates to closing predictable revenue every month.

Image of Henry in a boardroom.
Henry Schuck, CEO of DiscoverOrg Powered by ZoomInfo

If you’re wondering how to get started as a new VP of Sales, let’s start there and work backwards:

  1. Train your account executives
  2. Support marketing leads with lead generation from sales
  3. Partner with marketing

Step 1: Train your account executives

To get to Closed/Won Revenue, you must have well-trained Account Executives (AEs) who can close deals without a lot of hand-holding during the deal itself.

That requires regular coaching and training sessions to keep them up to speed with the best tactics and techniques. We’ve found that organizations that invest in at least an hour of organized coaching and training each week grow faster than those that don’t.

A solid training program also means that you don’t have to hire overly experienced AEs with incredibly high salary expectations. Hire smart, motivated sales reps and train them well. (At ZoomInfo Powered by DiscoverOrg, we screen all applicants with a cognitive test.)

Step 2: Support marketing leads with lead gen from sales

In order for AEs to close deals, they need a solid pipeline of leads. Where will those leads come from? Successful organizations generate leads from a mix of inbound marketing leads and outbound cold calling.

Treat your sales team as a vital part of the lead generation engine and don’t abdicate that completely to marketing. In most B2B companies, 33% of pipeline and bookings come from marketing programs. Where do the rest come from? Your team.

We solve for this by having a team of hungry and talented sales development reps who are cold calling and emailing VPs and Directors of Sales and Marketing all day, every day – and they are responsible for setting up the meetings for those well trained closing AEs.

This year, we’ve added fuel to the engine two ways: 

  • We split our sales team into inbound and outbound functions – and more than doubled our conversion rate
  • We use our Customer Success department as sales development for existing accounts

At the end of the year, if you miss your projections, your CEO isn’t going to be okay with “Well, the marketing leads sucked this year, but my team was awesome.” That’s never worked – and, at best, it’s only half the truth.

Step 3: A partnership with marketing

Two people riding a bicycle built for two.

While inbound marketing leads aren’t enough, they still are a critical component to hitting your revenue number.

Develop a great relationship with your Head of Marketing and figure out how to generate more inbound leads, and just as important, have a process to QUICKLY follow up on those leads that come in.

We’ve set up a solid progression on our sales development team so new hires start with inbound lead follow-up, and we expect those leads are followed up on in less than 3 minutes!

Every minute that goes by decreases our win rate. As they get successful there, they start to handle warm leads, and then move to cold calling.

If you find the inbound leads aren’t great, this is a great opportunity to work hand-in-hand with marketing to target better fit companies.

Every once in awhile I hear a VP of Sales looking at our sales intelligence platform and say, “We don’t really need this because we’re getting a lot of inbound leads and our CEO has great relationships in the industry.”

… Oh really? Why did you take your job then? You’ve got to view your role as not only CLOSING the leads that land on your team’s desks, but also GENERATING a pipeline and revenue engine hand-in-hand with marketing. That’s your job.

So that if your CEO gets hit by a bus, your networking events are busts, your website stops appearing on the first page of search results, and your marketing content stops getting read – your engine is still going to run.

So if you’re a VP of Sales, come in every day and ask yourself:

  • How do I build this revenue engine?
  • How do I tune this revenue engine that we already have?
  • How do I add speed, velocity, and horsepower to this engine?

Great VPs of Sales build great revenue engines. Bad ones sit back and wait for the leads to come.

Which one will you be?

About the author

Henry Schuck

Henry Schuck is the CEO & Founder of ZoomInfo, the leading B2B database and go-to-market solution.

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