December 6, 2023

How the Relationship Between the VP of Sales and VP of Engineering Drives Startups to Success in Silicon Valley


Bob Berry

I had the privilege of working with a number of outstanding VPs of Engineering, like Sudhanshu Verma at Inverse Network Technology and Roger Castillo at Alterpoint. Their product leadership and partnering mentality with all groups within the company really made an impact on our startups. The following are my reflections on what I learned from working with them as a Vice President of Sales.  Bob Berry

Two roles can dramatically shape a company's trajectory: the Vice President (VP) of Sales and the VP of Engineering. One brings the product to the market, while the other ensures the product is top-notch. It's a dynamic duo that's hard to beat.

Let's explore some strategies that ensure a successful partnership. 

Building a Strong Win/Win Relationship 

The VP of Sales, armed with a rich understanding of customer expectations, holds the key to shaping the engineering team's efforts toward building products that resonate with the market. At the heart of this collaboration lies the weekly formal exec-staff meeting, where the VP of Sales and the VP of Engineering come together with other key executives. 

In these weekly encounters, the VP of Sales is not just a passive observer but an active participant. Armed with their market insights and understanding of customer needs and problems, they ask important questions to understand the engineering team's challenges and achievements. They look for more than superficial updates; they delve deep into the details, leaving no stone unturned.

The VP of Sales also ensures that the engineering team never feels taken for granted or overshadowed by other departments. Instead, they shine a spotlight on the team's contributions, giving credit where it's due. This spirit of appreciation creates an environment of camaraderie where everyone feels invested in the shared mission of building outstanding products.

Nurturing Informal Communication 

Beyond the structured boardroom meetings lies the true essence of collaboration: one-on-one sessions. These aren’t about elaborate presentations; they're about direct, face-to-face communication sprinkled with candor.

In these relaxed settings, the VP of Sales and the VP of Engineering exchange insights and experiences. The VP of Sales delves into the nuanced world of engineering, understanding the intricate details that make a product great. On the flip side, the VP of Engineering gains a snapshot of the dynamic sales landscape, from evolving market trends to customer feedback.

These candid sessions foster transparency and mutual respect. It’s an opportunity for open dialogue, ensuring both teams are aligned and informed. Through such interactions, they not only strengthen their professional bond but also bolster the startup's path to success.

Creating a Culture of Energy and Excitement 

Step into the world of the VP of Sales, and you'll find a master storyteller. Armed with a treasure trove of customer stories and experiences, they become the bridge that connects the engineering team with the real impact of their work. During team huddles, they share tales of how the product has changed users' daily routines. 

Listening to these narratives, the engineers get it: they aren't just coding; they're making a difference by solving real customer problems. This realization fuels their drive, pushing them to innovate and outdo themselves. 

The right VP of Sales understands that use cases are not just data points; they are morale boosters that unlock the engineering team's full potential. Sharing these stories of success and transformation acts as a celebration of the engineering team's accomplishments, reinforcing the significance of their contributions.

Fostering Positive Vibes between Sales and Engineering 

Challenges are inevitable in any company, and the relationship between sales and engineering teams is no exception. As the VP of Sales and the VP of Engineering collaborate closely, they must navigate a natural healthy tension and differences in their approaches. However, the magic lies in their ability to view these challenges as opportunities for growth and understanding.

Creating connections beyond the boardroom is essential to smoothen out and address friction. The VP of Sales initiates a meaningful practice of shared experiences, such as dinners and social gatherings, where sales and engineering teams come together in a relaxed and informal setting. These moments bridge the gap between the teams, nurturing understanding, empathy, and friendship. Conversations flow beyond work topics, exploring personal interests and aspirations.

As shared experiences become the norm, an overall healthy and collaborative environment takes shape. Walls between departments are broken down, and a newfound spirit of cooperation permeates the startup's culture. The VP of Sales' efforts in fostering positivity become the building blocks of a harmonious work atmosphere. In this environment, engineers feel empowered to share their ideas and insights, knowing that their voices are heard and valued.

Bridging the Gap Between Departments 

The VP of Sales excels as a liaison between customers and the inner workings of the company, especially the engineering team. As the company's primary receiver of customer feedback, they are attuned to every applause and concern. These insights are then channelled directly to the engineers, ensuring the products mirror market desires.

Yet, this communication is a two-way street. The VP of Engineering, with their grasp over the technological backbone of the products, communicates the feasibility and scope of product modifications and innovations. They ensure that the solutions are both robust and adaptive, taking into account the feedback relayed by the VP of Sales.

While the VP of Sales provides a compass, guiding the company towards market needs, the VP of Engineering charts the course, steering the technical team to create products that aren't just innovative but also market-relevant. This collaboration results in a synchronized strategy where engineering solutions and sales insights blend seamlessly, boosting customer satisfaction.

The Cornerstone 

The partnership between the VP of Sales and the VP of Engineering forms the cornerstone of startup success. Through genuine communication, collaborative spirit, and a shared passion for customer impact, these leaders forge an alliance that resonates with brilliance. Together, they navigate challenges, drive innovation, and propel their startup toward a bright future of growth and prosperity.

Can we help you by addressing any questions, or giving some ideas that might help your situation?  Just email

#ceo #vc #investor #founder