Checklist to Simplify Titles: Sales Edition

Two weeks ago we discussed the trend of unconventional titles and how CEOs can best position and name their critical Product hires

As a niche recruitment firm focused on finding product and sales leaders for venture-funded startups and scale-ups, we are often tasked with recruiting first-time leadership hires - just as often we get the question, “what should I call them?”

To simplify title selection for early-stage CEOs and/or Founders, here is a quick checklist of the basics to help you determine which title you should choose when hiring your Sales Leader:


  • Reports to the Board and/or Founder/CEO
  • Board involvement
  • Participates in raising capital
  • Often hired to participate in a pivot/reset/turn around or to scale the business to achieve an outcome/exit
  • This functions owns the entire sales organization and infrastructure: field sales, account management (install base sales/growth), inside sales, BDR, presales, and sales operations
  • Might also own Marketing and/or Customer Success
  • Leads other leaders
  • Global scope
  • Focuses on the business objective, the market opportunity and how to scale and grow the revenue number
  • Brought in to instill confidence in large/complex "anchor account" deals
  • Engages with the market as a thought leader and ambassador

VP Sales

  • Reports to a CEO/Founder
  • Participates in company "town halls" as the functional leader
  • Could be the senior most sales leader of a team or a subject matter expert tasked with starting a new vertical or region
  • For most startups, a VP Sales is their senior most sales leader and they own the job end to end, including:
    • Figuring out the value prop, the accounts needed to get other accounts (beachheads/key wins), how to scale and where (geography/patches)
    • Determining support needed (BDR/Presales)
    • Executing
    • Holding people to the fire and managing performance (recognition, pipelines, termination, etc.)
    • They may/may not have a personal quota - this depends on the age and stage of the business as well as how mature the business is
  • Examples include:
    • VP Sales - Financial Services, but they are really an IC sales person with a personal quota
    • VP Sales - EMEA - tasked with winning the first deals to justify building a team

Hiring a VP of Sales? Make sure they have these four traits

Head of Sales 

  • Reports to the Founder/CEO
  • This title typically exists in young modern tech startups
  • Usually the first sales leader
  • Their team might be an inside sales/BDR model
  • Average deal size is most likely less than $35K
  • Often a scrappy persona; they love startups and are hands-on in everything
  • They carry a personal quota and earn extra based on team performance

What Top Sales Execs Look for in Their Next Opportunity: before hiring top Sales talent, make sure you have these 5 pieces ironed out 

Looking for Marketing, Customer Success, and/or Engineering title advice? Stay tuned for the rest of our five-part checklist series.