How to Hire a Sales and Marketing VP

by Jacques Werth

Many years ago I was being interviewed by the Executive Vice President of a publicly traded company.  I asked a lot of questions about his personal and business background.  Then, he said:  “What’s going on?  I’m supposed to be interviewing you.”

I asked:  “Why are you hiring a new Sales and Marketing VP?”

He said:  “We’re starting a new division and our guy, the current sales VP, is going to head up that new division.”

I said:  “What qualifies him to run the new division?”

He said:  “He’s a top notch manufacturing engineer and manager.”

Me:  “How come you had him running sales and marketing?”

Him:  “We fired the previous sales VP because he couldn’t get much of a sales volume increase out of the sales force.  He had been one of our better salespeople, but he couldn’t seem to get the hang of managing.  His salespeople didn’t make enough sales calls and we lost too many opportunities to the competition.  So we stuck the present guy in the job of pushing the sales force.”

Me:  “What about the guy before the previous sales VP?”

Him:  “It was pretty much the same story.  He didn’t know how to lead the sales force.”

Me:  “You said the company has been in business for 18 years.  How many sales managers have they had?”

Him:  “About a dozen.”

Me:  “You said that you’ve been with the company for a little over five years.  What was your first job title?”

Him:  “I was on the assembly line.”

Me:  “And now you’re the Executive Vice President of a company that has almost 2,000 employees.  How many direct reports do you have?”

Him:  “Six vice presidents and a few senior managers.  Before we go on, do you want the job you came here to discuss?”

Me:  “I don’t know yet.  First I need to know who I would be reporting to.”

Him:  “Just me.”

Me:  “If I take the job, are you going to tell me how to run the sales force, or will you support me in making major changes in the way the company does business? That will include a shakeup of the sales force, the marketing department, pricing, and whatever else needs fixing.”

Him:  “I’ll have to think about that.  What kind of changes do you expect to make?”

Me:  “I’ll take that non-answer to mean ‘No’.”

Him:  “Not necessarily, what kind of changes do you anticipate?”

Me:  “Since the company has had so many sales managers, and they were all less than satisfactory, it’s clear that top management has their own requirements about how sales should be managed.  I certainly would not conform to the way top management has wanted the sales VP to do his job in the past.  I don’t push salespeople, I get their cooperation or they get replaced.  Are you willing to take risks like that, which come with real change?”

Him:  “How soon can you start?”

Me:  “You didn’t answer the question.  Will I have your total support in changing the way the company does business?”

Him:  “Yes.”

Me:  “What about the President and the Board of Directors?”

Him:  “I’m on the board, and I’m a maverick too.  And, I have the board’s complete support.  I suppose you want a contract, right?”

I said:  “Yes.  My lawyer will draft it.”

He said:  “Son, we’re going to have a lot of fun.”

 

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How to Hire a Sales and Marketing VP