The Vice President (VP) of Sales is undeniably essential to a company’s success. They must constantly stay informed and current regarding the industry and market the organization is selling in and its target audience. The VP of Sales oversees an organization’s top-line revenue, including maintaining a sales team to ensure the company achieves its sales and revenue goals. 65 percent of executives in this role work at companies with over 1,000 employees, and 35 percent are in the finance and technology industries. This vital position requires hard and soft skills used throughout the company’s day-to-day operations to attain success.

43 percent of executives in this position stay at their company for two years or less, so chances are you will be interviewing candidates for this role. To help your search, we’ve compiled a list of eight insightful interview questions to ask VP of Sales candidates to certify that they are the correct person for the job.

1. What makes you good at sales and business development?

The answer to this question should provide helpful insight into the candidate’s knowledge about the position and prior experience that makes them qualified for the job. Are they a hunter? Are they a farmer? Would they be a good manager? This allows the interviewee to showcase their skills and how they are applied to achieve goals for the sales team and the entire company.

2. What makes you an effective leader?

While seemingly “basic” on the surface, this question is immensely important for this position. A VP of Sales is responsible for constructing and leading an effective team that understands the needs and wants of both the market and the company. Leadership is a soft skill that comes from both experience and emotional intelligence. Sales determine a large portion of a company’s success. A VP must constantly set new goals for the team and motivate them to complete and surpass these objectives to drive sales and revenue. The sales team often looks to the VP for direction when facing challenges or building a new strategy.

3. What market trends do you feel are most crucial today?

The industry is constantly changing, and different industries change in different ways. Identifying these trends allows a salesperson to make informed decisions about their strategy to shape a successful future. This question provides insight into how much knowledge or research the candidate has prepared for the interview. If an organization does not adapt to how the industry changes, it will struggle to remain competitive.

4. How do you envision the composition of the sales operations team? Will it seamlessly transform as the market and buyers transform?

A VP of Sales should strive to remain competitive in the market while boosting revenue with every lead. Asking this question offers the employer insight into whether the candidate understands or has experience on where to focus their efforts within the sales department, which functions need support from other departments, and emerging areas to explore to avoid falling behind in a constantly evolving market. A good VP of Sales also understands that their business strategy should be able to adapt and adjust to these changes without derailing progress.

5. What kind of talent is necessary to build and maintain a successful sales team? Do you have any experience in constructing teams?

An effective sales team is composed of both strategic and tactical minds. It is important to recognize the specific tasks that must be completed to achieve goals and those individuals who are best prepared to meet them. A good VP understands where their colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses lie and leverages those qualities to ensure team members complements each other. It is essential to recruit indivdiuals with not only technical skills but also soft skills such as the ability to effectively communicate, collaborate, and foster an environment of support instead of competition.

6. How will you help your team stay motivated?

The essential function of this position is to develop and oversee strategies that assist an organization in achieving its revenue goals. If your department is not meeting these needs, driving and encouraging your team to achieve its goals is key. A VP should lead by example, empowering and inspiring the employees they oversee to create new and innovative ways to generate sales or leads. A leader must cultivate momentum within the sales team and capitalize on that energy—especially after failures.

Related: Adopt These 4 Components of Effective Leadership for a Successful 2023

7. What is your plan or sales strategy if you were to get this position?

This question allows a candidate to highlight the following:

  • knowledge of the business and sales department
  • knowledge of the market and industry
  • thoughtful use of available and emerging technologies and assets of current employees and those they deem necessary to add to meet goals

With this information, the candidate should be able to establish a cohesive sales plan that fulfills the duties of a VP and posits the organization ahead of its competition.

8. What challenges did you face in your previous sales experience? How did you adapt or address them to meet your desired goal? What did you learn from facing this obstacle, and how has that lesson been implemented in your later endeavors?

Understanding how a candidate responded to and handled previous challenges is hugely telling about their organization, leadership skills, and ability to prioritize issues. A candidate might explain a specific scenario and depict the technical and functional operations used to solve the issue and achieve the sale—which is undoubtedly an appropriate answer to this question. Equally as important, however, is how the candidate handled the situation emotionally and how that obstacle adjusted the candidate’s mindset moving forward. The ability to grow is just as vital to this position as having technical skills and industry knowledge.

Related: Leveraging Emotional Intelligence in the Hiring Process

The VP of Sales is a vital position within an organization. As such, there are many moving parts within the role. In addition to the day-to-day analytical responsibilities of the job, candidates must also exhibit qualities that are not necessarily teachable but are developed and polished through experience. Asking your candidates questions that demonstrate both skill types in their answer—in addition to having a predetermined list of skills and qualities the organization is looking for in their next VP—should help the company hire the perfect fit talent.

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This blog was written by Pete Petrella.