4 Reasons to Hire an Interim VP of Sales

When a business loses (or never had) a sales team leader, it leaves a sizable gap in the sales force that must be addressed quickly and directly. Finding a skilled, experienced replacement is a top priority and, given the urgent nature of the position, is often the ideal time to hire an interim Vice President of Sales.

Why choose the interim option? Mainly, finding the perfect-fit sales leader can be a lengthy process; the good ones are hard to find and convince them they should work for you.  Also, if your past sales leader was floundering, this leaves a bad taste in your mouth, as well as negatively impacting the sales team’s morale, clients, and prospects in the pipeline.  An experienced interim leader can come in with fresh eyes and tee you up for long-term success.

Here are four other reasons why an interim sales leader could be right for you:

1. Someone has to do the “dirty work.”

A business undergoing significant change demands the services of a senior-level executive who can do the “dirty work” — trim a sales team, manage lay-offs and/or restructuring, etc. A newly hired permanent VP of Sales might incur considerable in-house resentment for taking these actions, while an interim VP can do so without concern about how he/she will be regarded internally.

After the dirty work is completed, “The permanent CEO can then come in as a ‘White Knight’ and have a much more positive starting point,” writes Bob Deprez, transition leadership expert

The same can be said about a permanent VP of Sales who comes aboard after the interim sales leader has cleaned a pre-existing mess.

2. An interim sales VP brings a fresh perspective to the job.

When a sales leader is let go, the replacement process usually takes, at minimum, 60 to 90 days; perhaps up to 6-7 months. No business can adequately “get by” with a gap in leadership during this time. A veteran VP of Sales can come in on an interim basis and assist in ensuring a smooth (or at least, less traumatic) transition in management.

Just as importantly, this individual can make an objective assessment of the sales team’s strengths and weaknesses. An interim VP of Sales comes to the post with no axe to grind or personal agenda to promote. He/she can evaluate not only the quality of the sales team, but how well or how poorly the sales pipeline is functioning, and whether or not there’s sufficient lead generation to keep moving forward.

Also, with the knowledge gained during the interim period, the temporary VP of Sales is often a valuable asset in helping recruit, vet and make the final selection of his/her permanent replacement.

3. This time can be devoted to new sales strategy development.

Some businesses may experience a “sales crisis” after letting their current VP of Sales go. In such cases, an interim VP can be brought in specifically to explore new areas of revenue generation. If the CEO (and/or board of directors) has long advocated exploring a new market or sales channel, the interim VP is ideally placed to move those ambitions from theory to execution.

4. An interim VP of Sales can jump-start a startup.

Most startups and early stage companies have the need for an expert sales leader, but lack the resources to attract and retain the best talent around. An interim VP of Sales represents an ideal solution, because he/she:

  • Comes with an extensive background in leading businesses through different growth stages
  • Offers a strategic perspective on how to take startup sales to the next level
  • Can often call upon a broad network of relationships, leading to new sales opportunities and major deals

Once the startup or early stage business really gets moving, the interim sales leader can step aside for a new, permanent hire.

If your business is currently struggling with sales, this might be the right time to explore the interim VP solution.