Sales leadership involves strategic decision-making and the ability to inspire and motivate team members. Sales leaders meet and exceed company revenues by leading their teams to achieve revenue goals. Sales leadership roles are a good fit for professionals capable of long-term vision planning and who have excellent mentoring and decision-making skills.
What Is a Sales Leader?
A sales leader is a visionary who guides their sales team toward meeting or exceeding their goals by demanding excellence and inspiring the team to do their best work. As such, they are an important part of your organization’s overall sales management strategy. They also create effective sales strategies that align with the company’s revenue goals and create a sales culture that leads to success.
There are key traits that make sales leaders stand out among other sales professionals, including:
- Strategic thinking
- Emotional intelligence
- Strong communication skills
- Having a powerful vision for achievement
- The ability to coach, motivate, and inspire others to perform
How to Become a Sales Leader
There are a variety of paths to becoming a sales leader, including having robust sales experience, relevant training, and a great mentor. However, every journey to sales leadership involves time, energy, and dedication spent in each of these areas.
You can become a sales leader by doing a combination of the following:
Leverage Your Sales Experience
The first thing you need is to develop experience in sales, whether in the form of joining a company or starting a business and selling your own products. No matter how you gain sales experience, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate successes and failures to learn from so you can show your sales team how you achieved your own success in sales.
Invest in Your Own Professional Development
The right training can help you focus on areas you need to improve in and take the areas where you already thrive to the next level. Sales training can teach you a wide range of sales techniques and approaches to closing deals as well as help you develop leadership capacities in coaching, motivation, inspiration, and communication.
💡 Pro tip: As a sales leader, one of the most important skills to have and to continuously improve through training is communication. Communication courses for sales leaders, such as those offered by The Sales Pro, can give you the edge you need to compete and to connect with your team.
Find a Mentor Who Is an Experienced Sales Leader
Having a mentor who currently is, or has been, a sales leader mentor can help you become a sales leader faster. They allow you the opportunity to shadow them so that you can see firsthand what a sales leader does.
You’ll be able to observe some of their successful behaviors to learn what makes a sales leader someone a team is eager to follow. Furthermore, if your mentor is in your organization, they can help refer you for your first sales leadership role.
Sales Leadership vs Sales Management
Sales leaders focus on the big picture. They create the sales strategies their teams follow and the vision and sales culture of the organization. They also use their influence and authority to help their teams close large deals when necessary.
Sales managers are focused on the tactics behind making the sales leader’s vision a reality. They focus on individual sales activities, each stage of the pipeline, and overall team performance. Sales managers also focus on detailed performance metrics, such as daily calls or number of product demos, and reports.
Both sales leaders and sales managers are necessary to the success of the entire sales organization. The high-level strategy and vision that motivates and inspires a sales team are needed just as much as the tactical actions that help close deals, so both sales leaders and managers should work in tandem.
The Top Skills of Excellent Sales Leaders
Sales leaders participate in daily activities such as evaluating sales data, making strategic sales decisions, creating and upholding the company vision, and inspiring the sales team. They perform these activities by doing things like reviewing sales reports and deciding to prioritize deals.
Here are a few of the most important skills sales leaders possess:
A sales leader thinks strategically. They are not only concerned about their sales organization, but also about the company as a whole and how the sales team can make a positive impact on revenue goals. Great sales leaders are concerned about all deals and opportunities but don’t allow one or two to sidetrack them.
Ability to Focus on the Big Picture
Sales leaders are visionaries with powerful ideas of what their sales organization can achieve. They convey their vision to their teams with effective communication and by creating a sales plan that fosters success. They remain focused on the big picture and do not allow setbacks or even wins along the way to cause a shift in their overall vision.
Motivation & Coaching Skills
Coaching, motivating, and inspiring their teams are what the best sales leaders are known for. They challenge their teams to exceed their goals and coach them along the way with practical and effective ideas and solutions to obstacles that come up in the sales process.
Closing Deals & Overcoming Objections
The best sales leaders know how to close deals and address a prospect’s objections effectively. They’re often called upon to attend client meetings with senior executives to help close a deal. This helps their team to learn from example, which is a great internal training tool.
People Suited for Sales Leadership
Sales leadership is right for ambitious people who want to inspire others to make a big impact in an industry or in an organization. They’re able to challenge their teams and create a sales culture that fosters peak performance.
Sales leadership is a good fit for a wide range of professionals, such as:
- Seasoned business owners: Seasoned business owners looking to exponentially grow sales can inspire their sales team and attract high performers to join their company using sales leadership skills.
- Ambitious sales reps: Ambitious sales reps can benefit from sales leadership by expanding their reach and level of impact beyond personal production. They can motivate others and progress to the level of a sales leader over time.
- Startup entrepreneurs: Startup entrepreneurs need to be sales leaders so they can sell their ideas and products to investors, customers, and their new teams.
- Sales managers: Similar to the ambitious sales professional, sales managers wanting to move up can become a sales leader to expand their influence beyond the team they’ve successfully managed.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I find a sales mentor?
There are a variety of ways to find a sales mentor. Look within the company you work for and reach out to sales leaders, like sales VPs or directors, who are in positions you aspire to work toward and ask them to mentor you. You can also become a member of a co-working space such as WeWork, where there is no shortage of entrepreneurs and sales leaders willing to help you grow.
What common roles do sales leaders have?
Sales leaders are often found in upper management in roles such as VP of Sales or Director of Sales because their role requires they make strategic decisions and shape the company vision.
What tools make a sales leader’s job easier?
Part of a sales leader’s job is to keep their team performing well and meeting goals. A CRM like Salesforce makes it easy to set goals and measure performance. The reporting features also help analyze and evaluate sales opportunities to figure out where to best focus a team’s resources. Salesforce offers an Essentials plan tailored for small business, which starts at $25 per user, per month. Right now, you can try it out for free for three months.
A sales leader is a strategic professional who possesses the ability to inspire their sales organization while challenging them to perform at their best. They know how to close deals and coach others to do the same, which separates them from sales managers, who are more focused on day-to-day sales activities.