Many early-stage founders have set their VP Sales up to fail- Insight

By Zion Rufus 

From setting unrealistic goals, to pure quantitative planning, and lack of respect for the critical role of marketing in sales success, many early-stage startups have set their Vice President of Sales (VP Sales) up for failure.

To mitigate this challenge, professionals across board have urged startup founders to recognize the importance of the VP Sales role and ensure that they are set up for success from the outset by providing them with the necessary resources and support.

“These unrealistic goals are created through overselling growth to investors to raise more money or get a better valuation. And when you have unattainable goals, you do the wrong things. You think short-term. You become seller-centric instead of customer-centric,” Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs said in a podcast.

In Walker’s viewpoint, marketing is often under-resourced and under-funded, with unrealistic goals driving the wrong actions for short-term “lead” metrics that rarely lead to efficient revenue results.

This can include inadequate budget, insufficient training and onboarding, unrealistic expectations, and a lack of alignment with other departments. As a result, the VP Sales may struggle to meet their targets, leading to frustration and ultimately, failure.

Sheri Otto agrees.

For the Hubspot marketing leader, marketing is often under-resourced and underfunded because people often struggle to quantify marketing ROl.

“This along with a lack of marketing and sales alignment, it’s no wonder projections are inflated and we come up short on promises,” Otto said in her LinkedIn comment. In her opinion, marketing leaders in the B2B space aren’t always equipped with the analytical expertise to speak up, defend budgets, and prove their ROl.

“They are needed but often undervalued because it’s harder to connect the dots. One thing we can do is begin to rely more heavily on our attribution modeling tools to begin communicating which touchpoints and marketing assets are having the biggest impact on the sale,” she advised.

Today, many founders oversell growth to investors to raise more money or get a better valuation, leading to unattainable goals and a seller-centric instead of customer-centric focus.

In addition, quotas are often back-calculated in a spreadsheet with best-case assumptions, creating an environment of growth at all costs which leads to misalignment, an unhealthy culture, and high turnover.

Adam Benitez, RevOps strategist and technologist advises that to avoid issues such as mentioned above, it is critical for startups to properly determine the addressable market and ensure the quotas are grounded in reality by utilizing data (both via a top-down and bottoms-up approach).

According to Benitez, well-crafted quotas should be motivating yet attainable.

“Let’s focus on creating a culture that prioritizes customer-centricity, alignment, and the long-term success of the company as opposed to a culture of short-term gains, individual interests over the company’s success, or neglecting the needs of customers,” he said, adding that a strategic partnership between sales and marketing is essential to drive efficient revenue results.

Bob Britton, founder and CEO, Sales Enablement Sherpas believes sales does not scale linearly.

In the LinkedIn submission, Britton stated “…If it did, then companies would have no problem hitting the numbers they ‘hopecast’, not, forecast. Sales is both a science and an art, and you need to approach it as such.

According to Britton, startups need to recognize that the lagging KPIs on the spreadsheets are driven by focusing on the leading behaviors of the sales teams and the customers who are struggling to make sense of the avalanche of information they have to sift through every day.

Founders have also been advised to set realistic goals based on customer needs, consider qualitative factors, such as team culture and marketing efforts, and adequately resource and fund marketing to drive long-term revenue growth.

This article was written with submissions from Sheri Otto Chris Walker Bob Britton Adam Benitez



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