Making Waves as VP of Sales

Chris Neenan, VP of Sales at Civitas Learning

When it comes to taking that leap across the pond, Chris Neenan has done it. Chris started his career in sales in the construction sector, before branching into SaaS, which ultimately led to him making that leap from the US to the UK.

He’s now VP of Sales at Civitas, a data-driven student success platform, but before this, he served as Divisional VP of Sales, VP of Sales in EMEA and ultimately VP of EMEA at Bazaarvoice, a tech company proving software allowing brands to collect and display various forms of user-generated content on eCommerce websites.

New Surroundings

Chris’s new role at BazaarVice was London-based, and some of the things that attracted him to the role, in spite of the move required, were culture-related: colleagues were smart, very driven, and didn’t have to resort to unhealthy forms of internal competition with each other.

They succeeded in blending character and personality with the rigour and discipline of a good sales team driven to achieve results.

Chris learnt how to work in sales the right way here, in a way that delivered these results but without doing so in the brutal, cut-throat way some places employed.


Learnings with Hindsight

Although it didn’t feel fun at the time, Chris considers it a blessing in hindsight that he found himself managing large numbers of people at any one time, when he first found himself in a sales leadership role.

He found himself in charge of 10 sales reps, putting him through his paces and forced him to be more of a less hands-on person, allowing them to succeed or fail in their own time, with some guidance where possible.

While hard to stand back, these failures were valuable learning experiences for his sales reps, allowing them to know what success looked like.


Considerations for New VPs of Sales

If talking to a first-time founder looking to hire a VP of Sales, the first things he’d advise are that they should have a clear idea of what you need and what new VPs of Sales are walking into. Cultural fit is important too, as the VP of Sales needs to match the team they’ll be heading up and ultimately shaping.

Chris also believes, as with any hire, businesses must be very intentional when looking for VPs of Sales.

If you need someone coachable, Chris thinks businesses should work out how they will assess that, for example. If you’re not specific about what you want in a new VP of Sales, a vacuum will arise otherwise.

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