The Vice President (VP) of Sales is undeniably essential to the success of a company. He or she must constantly stay informed and up to date regarding the industry and market that the organization is selling in and the audience it is targeting. The VP of Sales is responsible for overseeing the top line revenue for an organization, with duties to include maintaining a sales team to ensure the company achieves its sales and revenue goals. This is an important position that requires both hard and soft skills that are used throughout the day-to-day operations of the company to attain success. 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 you with useful insight as to the candidate’s knowledge about the position and prior experience that makes him/her qualified for the job. Are they a hunter?  Are they a farmer? Would he or she be a good manager? This allows the interviewee to showcase the skills he or she possesses, and how they are applied to achieve goals for not only the sales team but for the entire company as well.

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. A large portion of a company’s success is determined by sales; a VP must constantly set new goals for the team and motivate them to not only complete but surpass these objectives to drive sales and revenue. The sales team will often look 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 always 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 as to how much knowledge or research the candidate has prepared for the interview. If an organization does not adapt to the way 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 goal of every VP of Sales should be 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, what areas need support from other departments, and emerging areas that should be explored 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 do you think 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 complete them. A good VP understands where his or her colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses lie and leverages those qualities to ensure the team complements each other. Not only is it important to recruit team members with technical skills, but soft skills such as the ability to effectively communicate, collaborate, and foster an environment of support instead of competition are also elements to keep in mind when building your team.

6. How will you help your team stay motivated?

The essential role 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, consequently, the role of a VP of Sales is not successfully being met. If this is the case, having the ability to drive and encourage your team to achieve its goals is key. A VP should lead by example empowering and inspiring the employees he or she oversees to create new and innovative ways to generate sales or leads. A leader must be able to cultivate momentum within the sales team and capitalize on that energy—especially after failures.

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

It is crucial that, with this information, the candidate can establish a cohesive sales plan that fulfills the duties of a VP and posits the organization ahead of its competition.

8. Reflecting on your previous sales experience, what challenges did you face? 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 into your later endeavors?

Understanding how a candidate responded to and handled previous challenges is hugely telling about his/her organization and leadership skills and ability to prioritize issues. A candidate might explain a specific scenario and depict the technical and functional operations that were used to solve the issue and achieve the sale—which is certainly 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.

The VP of Sales is a very important 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 that the organization is looking for in their next VP—should help the company hire the perfect fit talent.