How to Become a VP of Sales + Information About the Role

William Cannon
Last updated on May 31, 2024
Table of Contents

Your journey to the pinnacle of a sales career—becoming a Vice President of Sales—begins with understanding the role’s scope. The position demands a unique blend of strategic insight, leadership acumen, and sales mastery to drive your company’s success to new heights. This guide highlights how to become a VP of Sales and crucial details about the role. 

What is a Vice President of Sales?

Embarking on a sales career path can lead to various leadership roles, with the position of Vice President of Sales being a pinnacle for many. This business executive role is more than a sales title; it drives a company’s sales success.

VP of Sales Role Overview

A Sales Vice President is a key player within the hierarchy of a sales organization. This position is not just about managing sales teams; it’s a strategic role that intertwines leadership, foresight, and in-depth sales expertise. Sitting between the sales managers and the C-suite, such as the Chief Revenue Officer, a Vice President of Sales is responsible for steering the sales strategy toward the company’s goals and market trends.

A Vice President of Sales role can vary significantly from one company to another, but it generally involves a blend of sales management, strategic planning, and leadership responsibilities. This individual often reports directly to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), serving as a bridge between the sales team and the highest levels of company leadership.

VP of Sales Responsibilities

As a VP of Sales, you’ll find your days are a mosaic of various responsibilities crucial to the business’s growth. Some of these responsibilities include:

  • Developing Sales Strategies: Crafting strategies that push the envelope and ensure your company remains competitive.
  • Leading Sales Teams: Guiding and mentoring sales teams to exceed their targets while fostering a culture of success and continuous improvement.
  • Analyzing Sales Data: Utilizing sales data to make informed decisions, identify trends, and adjust strategies based on sales reports as necessary.
  • Expanding Business Development: Identifying and capitalizing on new business opportunities to drive revenue and growth.
  • Managing Budgets: Overseeing the sales budget to ensure resources are appropriately allocated for maximum efficiency and profitability.
  • Networking: Building a professional network that can open doors and create opportunities for your sales team members.
  • Training and Development: Implementing training programs to enhance the skills of your sales employees, preparing them with actionable sales tips.

Traditional Career Pathway to Become VP of Sales

Becoming a Vice President of Sales is often marked by progressive sales roles. Most sales VPs have walked the path starting from entry-level sales positions, moving up to roles like Sales Development Representative, then Sales Manager, and onwards. These positions provide the hands-on experience necessary to understand the intricacies of the sales process and the dynamics of leading effective sales teams.

In addition to hands-on sales experience, many who reach the Vice President level also have a breadth of experience in other business areas, such as outbound marketing or business development. This rounded experience ensures that a VP of Sales understands how all departments work together to drive the company’s success.

Understanding the role and its responsibilities is a cornerstone for those aiming to navigate the sales career path effectively. Your strategic insight, ability to drive sales strategy, and leadership prowess are essential components that will set the foundation for your ascent to the role of VP of Sales.

How to Become VP of Sales: 7 Steps for Success

Climbing the ladder to Vice President of Sales is no easy feat, but it can be achieved with proper preparation and persistence. The path for sales professionals aiming for the C-suite begins with building a solid educational foundation and early career experience. However, education and tenure alone will not guarantee you reach the executive level. 

From obtaining the proper certifications to excelling in your current sales position, we will outline the milestones you need to hit to transform into an effective sales executive qualified to steer revenue strategy at the highest level.

Step 1: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

Typically, becoming a VP of Sales begins with solid educational groundwork. You will usually need a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, communications, or a related field. This isn’t just a box to tick off; it’s a crucial foundation that introduces you to core business concepts, sales principles, and the latest market trends.

Your degree can equip you with a deep understanding of business operations and give you insights into customer behavior—both are invaluable in crafting effective sales strategies.  It’s not just about the knowledge; your time in college is a fantastic opportunity to start building that all-important professional network with peers who could one day become critical stakeholders in your sales career.

Step 2: Grow Your Experience

Once you’ve donned your cap and gown, it’s time to dive headfirst into the sales world. Starting in an entry-level position, such as a Sales Representative or Associate, gives you the frontline experience needed to understand the sales process from the ground up. Here’s where theory meets practice, and you learn the art of negotiation, customer engagement’s importance, and sales enablement’s intricacies.

With each deal you close and each target you meet or exceed, you’re not just hitting numbers but laying the building blocks of your sales expertise. Remember, this hands-on experience will give you the credibility to lead sales teams in the future. Take every chance to exceed your sales quota, not to inflate numbers, but to showcase your capacity for driving revenue growth and managing a successful sales department.

In each role, strive to understand your responsibilities and how the sales team fits into the larger picture of the company’s revenue cycle. This holistic understanding is vital for a VP of Sales, who must align the sales strategy with broader business objectives. As you grow, don’t forget to mentor entry-level sales reps; you demonstrate the leadership skills essential for a sales VP by fostering talent.

Your early years in sales are your proving ground. They are where you develop the resilience and strategic thinking that will mark your career path to sales leadership. Take on challenges, learn from your sales managers, and watch the ever-evolving sales landscape. Your journey is just beginning, but each step is a stride toward that vice president title.

Step 3: Work on Leadership Skills

As you climb the sales career ladder, leadership skills become as crucial as sales expertise. To prepare for Vice President of Sales, you need to cultivate the ability to inspire and guide your sales team members toward achieving your company’s revenue goals.

Begin by seeking opportunities to lead projects or mentor entry-level sales positions within your organization. This search can provide a safe space to hone delegation, strategic thinking, and conflict resolution skills. Remember, leadership isn’t just about directing others; it’s about being a role model. Your sales team will ask you for instructions, motivation, and support. In addition, it’s vital to recruit the right talent and hone in sales interview questions

Moreover, consider formal leadership training. Workshops, seminars, or even a mentorship under a seasoned sales leader like a Chief Revenue Officer can give you deeper insights into what it takes to drive a sales team to success. The goal is to manage and be a visionary for your sales department, shaping the sales process and culture.

Step 4: Upgrade Your Certifications & Qualifications

In the ever-evolving landscape of sales, staying current is non-negotiable. Upgrading your certifications and qualifications signals clearly to your peers and superiors that you’re serious about your sales career path and leadership role.

Certifications in sales methodology, advanced sales strategies, and even CRM technologies can boost your resume and capabilities. Organizations like the Sales Management Association offer various certifications that can bolster your knowledge and credibility.

Invest time learning about sales data analysis, market trends, and sales forecasting. These are critical areas where a Vice President of Sales should excel. Furthermore, pursuing an MBA or a master’s degree in a relevant field could set you apart from the competition, equipping you with advanced knowledge in strategic business development and operational management.

Every course, certificate, and degree is a tool in your arsenal, preparing you not just to meet the expectations of a Sales VP role but to exceed them. As you grow, so does your ability to drive revenue growth, develop robust sales strategies, and lead your sales organization to new heights.

Step 5: Get to Know Other Departments

As a future VP of Sales, your success won’t just hinge on your department alone; it’s crucial to understand how interdepartmental dynamics contribute to the revenue cycle. Start by building relationships with other departments, such as marketing, customer success, and product development. Your goal should be to understand their challenges, strategies, and workflows. 

This cross-departmental knowledge not only enriches your insight into how the entire company functions but also allows you to better align sales goals with the company’s vision and improve customer experience—ultimately impacting the company’s revenue.

Step 6: Have a Proven Track Record of Success

Your journey towards becoming a Vice President of Sales must showcase a clear trajectory of success in sales prospecting. This means consistently meeting or exceeding sales targets, effectively leading sales teams, and contributing to revenue growth. Your track record should demonstrate your ability to navigate sales challenges, convert potential leads into existing customers, and maintain a steady average selling price and sales performance growth. Proven success instills confidence in your abilities among critical stakeholders and solidifies your standing as a capable leader in the competitive sales landscape.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that job opportunities for top executives, such as Vice Presidents of Sales, will expand by 3% up to 2032, which aligns with the average growth rate across all job sectors. These sales statistics show that sales leaders must continuously develop track records to differentiate themselves in a competitive market. 

Step 7: Go Beyond Your Quota

Going beyond your quota regularly is about more than just outstanding sales numbers—it’s a testament to your strategic thinking and dedication to your craft. As you aim for the role of VP of Sales, surpassing your goals consistently shows that you’re not just reaching revenue targets but are actively contributing to new revenue streams, engaging in sales enablement, and implementing revenue-generating processes. This approach helps foster a culture of excellence and innovation within your sales teams, positioning you as a leader who meets and redefines expectations.

Skills Needed to Become VP of Sales

Climbing to the top sales role requires a mix of hard and soft skills. Hard skills represent the tangible capabilities you can quantify, like sales technology expertise. Soft skills encompass the intangible traits and abilities that allow you to lead teams effectively. Let’s explore the key competencies aspiring VPs of Sales should develop.

Hard Skills

There are a few essential hard skills VPs of Sales need to develop, including:

  • Sales process mastery: As the head of sales, you need to be an expert on the entire sales cycle and how to optimize it. Know the sales stages inside out.
  • Data analysis: Strong data skills allow you to glean insights, identify issues, and make data-driven decisions to improve sales outcomes. Become proficient with sales analytics.
  • Sales tools expertise: From CRM to sales enablement platforms, you should be adept at using core sales technologies to their full potential.
  • Business acumen: An executive must understand budgets, operations, and financial metrics to align sales goals with broader business objectives.

Soft Skills

To complement hard sales skills, VPs of Sales must exhibit the following soft skills to succeed. 

  • Leadership: Inspire your sales teams to exceed targets by setting an example as an influential leader.
  • Communication: Clearly convey vision and strategy across the organization. Listen actively and provide constructive feedback.
  • Strategic thinking: Take a future-focused approach to identify new revenue-generating opportunities.
  • Motivational abilities: Energize and encourage your sales department through incentives, coaching, and celebrating wins.
  • Emotional intelligence: Foster trust through empathy and support. Understand what motivates team members.

Average VP of Sales Salary

According to recent data, the average base salary for a Vice President of Sales in the United States is $236,425 annually. However, salaries vary significantly based on location, industry, company size, and experience level.

The overall salary range for most VP of Sales positions falls between $208,525 on the lower end and $270,894 for top earners. Those with advanced degrees, sought-after certifications, specialized skills, and over 10+ years of sales leadership experience tend to earn compensation packages at the higher end of that spectrum.

When factoring in additional cash compensation like bonuses and commissions, the average total pay for a Vice President of Sales rises to $343,416 annually. Leading sales executives at enterprise technology companies and major corporations in major cities can earn compensation packages exceeding $400,000 annually.

Overall, the earning potential for skilled Vice Presidents of Sales is quite substantial. However, candidates aiming for the sales C-suite need more than just monetary motivations. Equally as important is a proven track record of sales excellence, unwavering leadership capabilities, and the strategic vision to take revenue growth to new heights

FAQs About How to Become VP of Sales

Below are a few of the most frequently asked questions about becoming a VP of Sales.

What does it take to become a VP of sales?

Achieving the Vice President of Sales role requires a robust combination of education, like a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, extensive sales experience, proven leadership skills, and a deep understanding of sales strategies and market trends. It’s a career path that calls for strategic insight and the ability to mentor and drive a sales team toward success.

What is the average age of a VP of sales?

The average age can vary widely, as it’s less about age and more about the depth of experience and the quality of results delivered. Typically, sales VPs have substantial experience in sales leadership roles, which can often translate to individuals in their late 30s to 50s.

What does a sales VP do?

A Sales Vice President directs and shapes the sales strategy, mentors sales teams, oversees sales targets, and aligns sales goals with the broader business objectives. Their expertise in analyzing sales data and market trends is crucial for the company’s growth.

What makes a good VP of sales?

A good Vice President of Sales possesses a keen understanding of sales processes, leadership acumen, and the ability to forecast and adapt to market trends. They are adept at mentoring sales teams, developing strategies, and leading their sales organization to achieve and surpass their goals.

How long does it take to become a VP of sales?

The timeline can vary, but it typically requires a decade or more of progressive experience in sales, often moving through roles such as entry-level sales roles, sales manager, and beyond. Consistent achievement, leadership growth, and strategic contributions are critical milestones along this path.

Can you be a VP of sales without a degree?

While it’s possible to rise through the ranks without a formal degree, having one can provide a foundational knowledge and skill set that is highly valued. Additionally, a degree can accelerate the journey by offering networking opportunities and educational insights crucial for strategic sales leadership.

What You Need to Remember About How to Become VP of Sales

Ascending to a Vice President of Sales demands a robust blend of education, hands-on experience, and leadership insight. It’s a strategic odyssey through rigorous learning, team guidance, and exceeding expectations. To excel, you must integrate sales proficiency with cross-departmental insight and a history of success, proving your capability to drive growth and inspire excellence. In essence, becoming a VP of Sales is not merely about meeting targets; it’s about setting the bar for sales excellence and fostering a continually redefining culture.

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