The Building Blocks of a Great Sales Leader

In July 2017, Hixme, a California-based group health insurance firm, was looking to expand and offer a new product to a broader national market. Executives knew the company needed a vice president of sales who could both monetize the new concept and inspire the sales team.

Their choice: Peter Wells, who came to Hixme with more than 20 years of experience in the tech, pharma, retail, and communications industries. In announcing the appointment, CEO Denny Weinberg cited Wells’ “proven track record in transitioning startups into viable market leaders.”

Successful sales executives can coax great performances out their teams.

Like Wells, successful sales executives need to be goal-oriented, have outstanding sales instincts, and be able to coax great performances out their teams.

Sales management is a career option for graduates of an online Master of Business Administration degree program. Ohio University’s online MBA program now offers classes in leadership principles, analytics, and developing customer relationships as part of its new strategic selling and sales leadership concentration.

Common Traits of a Great Sales Leader

For those who hold an MBA, sales experience mixed with an aptitude for management can lead to a successful career leading a sales department. Management involves duties and responsibilities above and beyond sales. For this reason, the best sales managers are not necessarily the best salespeople.

“If you want to become a high-impact sales manager, the type that consistently achieves great results with your sales team, you need to master key foundational management skills,” explains Sales Readiness Group CEO Norman Behar in his company’s blog post, “How a Sales Manager Can Develop Sales Leadership Skills.”

Behar suggests that recruiting and hiring the right people, managing sales performance, managing the sales pipeline, coaching and developing a sales team, and guiding the team are all traits that lead to success in sales management.

Sales departments have a particular responsibility in an organization, and other departments depend on them for the company’s success. Sales managers have to run a tight ship, coaching salespeople (sometimes individually), and establishing a clear strategic direction for the entire sales team.

Harvard Business Review writer Steve W. Martin highlights the results of an extensive performance study of more than 400 sales managers in “The 7 Attributes of the Most Effective Sales Leaders.” Traits common to the best sales leaders are:

  • Target Fixation: Good sales leaders tend to be target- and deadline-oriented. Their teams tend to prioritize achieving revenue goals above all else. Leaders keep their teams focused on sales quotas and objectives with a sense of urgency.
  • Command Instinct: Sales teams need to be held to a higher degree of accountability than most other company employees. The best sales managers create an environment in which their people constantly seek self-improvement. The goal of a commanding sales leader should be to eliminate complacency and reward those who go above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Hiring Ability: Sales leaders who cannot consistently choose quality people for their team can expect to see deadlines and goals not being met at the end of the month. Successful sales leadership means learning how to pick candidates who are persuasive and experienced at networking and building relationships, and who have a wealth of previous experience to back up their resumés.
  • Sales Intuition: A combination of ingenuity and experience can help to propel a sales leader into the top ranks of the profession. High-performing managers understand how to share valuable advice and work fluidly alongside their reps during customer interactions.
  • Control Orientation: Successful sales processes tend to be highly structured. Sales leaders who monitor their teams closely and strictly enforce the processes are more likely to exceed their quotas and see better sales stats.
  • Coaching Adaptability: Salespeople employ a variety of different styles when approaching potential customers or clients. Great sales leaders can adapt their coaching style to a salesperson’s individual strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. The wider a manager’s range in coaching, the more helpful he or she will be to the sales staff.
  • Strategic Leadership: Designing a sales strategy, choosing the best course of action, and creating a cost-effective sales model that maximizes revenue requires no small amount of strategy backed by real-world experience. A great sales leader will be able to draw from a wealth of business knowledge and practical experience in sales to deploy the right salespeople at the right time, segment a market into appropriate verticals, and form specialized teams for different sales tasks.

The Evolution of Technology and Sales Leadership

The dawn of data analytics permanently changed the face of sales for the vast majority of businesses. Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms are capable of constantly analyzing past and present numbers, transaction histories, and market trends in real time to paint a clear image of customers’ or clients’ current needs, desires, and habits.

Sales managers are finding that they need to understand how to use analytics technology to keep up with the competition and derive useful sales tips and strategies. Customer communications company Tenfold points out how a sales leader can harness the power of analytics in “How Sales Analytics Is Useful for Your Sales Team.”

According to Tenfold, sales analytics can and should be used to set proper sales goals, optimize a sales team’s overall performance, and better incentivize competition among salespeople. Performance metrics can be easily accessible and visualized in a way that illustrates exactly where the team stands. And finally, sales analytics can identify new and/or underserved markets and empower mobile workforces.

Great sales leaders can make or break a team of even the most seasoned and expert salespeople. Sales management isn’t just about making a sale. It’s about organizing the best team possible, giving team members a carefully constructed, proven roadmap, and inspiring them to push their own limits further and further.

Ohio University’s Master of Business Administration Degree

Nationally recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Online MBA” program, Ohio University’s online MBA degree program includes a concentration in Strategic Selling and Sales Leadership. Courses focus on building customer relationships, quantitative skills necessary for sales professionals, and sales leadership.

Other program concentrations include accounting, business analytics, executive management, finance, health care, operations & supply chain management, strategic selling & sales leadership, business venturing & entrepreneurship.


Recommended Reading:

4 Social Media Rules for Businesses

Four Consumer Behavior Theories Every Marketer Should Know

4 Keys to Human Resource Management



Peter Wells Joins Hixme –

Developing Sales Leadership Skills –

Attributes of the Most Effective Sales Leaders – Harvard Business Review

Sales Analytics and Your Sales Team –