Sales Leader: Definition, Skills, & Responsibilities

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams, 6th US President

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When you think of a leader, what kind of person comes to mind? Perhaps you think of someone in charge, like a king, general, or CEO. In terms of attributes, someone loud, well-spoken, and commanding sounds like they fit the bill.

Actually, a leader doesn’t have to fit into such specific constraints. Outside of position or personal qualities, a leader is someone who inspires others to do more, succeed more, and try harder.

What is a sales leader?

The ultimate objective of a sales team is to close sales. Accordingly, a sales leader should provide the strategy and inspiration in order for sales reps to do just that.

According to Forbes, more than 60% of employees reporting to a bad coach are thinking about quitting. Hence, the importance of sales leadership shouldn’t be underestimated.

Effective sales leadership results in happier, more productive sales teams that get good results because they want to – and not just because they’re told to. 

Sales Leader vs. Sales Manager

Many people conflate the role of a sales manager with that of a sales leader. Indeed, there might be some crossover in some responsibilities depending on the company, but these two are different positions with different job duties.

A leader does not necessarily have to be in a manager’s role; they might be a VP of Sales or Sales Director or other higher position that shapes the company vision. However, anyone in a managerial role should be a good leader.

A sales leader cooperates with sales operations, the sales enablement team, and the sales manager to create goals and strategy and to establish a sales culture. By setting a strategy, sales leaders empower sales managers to carry out their own responsibilities, which are to supervise sales reps, monitor performance, run day-to-day operations, and act on the long-term goals set by leadership.

Sales Lead Responsibilities

In order to better understand this role, it might help to look at a list of specific responsibilities. So, what does a sales lead do? 

  • Sets long-term goals, objectives, and top priorities for the sales organization
  • Leads the sales organization in meeting quotas and generating predictable and repeatable successes
  • Creates the organization’s Sales Strategy, a series of steps for sales teams to follow, from lead qualification all the way to forecasting future deals
  • Authors the Annual Sales Plan, a strategic document that maps out how a company will improve sales in a given time period
  • Creates the Sales Playbook, a guide for compiling best practices for every sales situation
  • Establishes a Sales System, a tool or set of tools to visualize and boost sales that sellers must continuously be trained to use
  • Coaches sales staff to perform better by focusing on strengths and motivations

Each company should have the job title and duties customized to their needs in order to better understand and fill the position. A well-written job summary will attract the perfect candidate. 

Sales Leader Skills and Qualities

While leaders may come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities, there are a few core qualities and skills that sales leadership must demonstrate to succeed. The best sales leaders are…

  • Strategic: The primary goal of a sales leader is to set goals and strategies, so naturally this person should be strategically-minded. This requires continuously reviewing data and refining methods, as well as maneuvering team members like chess pieces to put them where they’ll be the most efficient.
  • Empathetic: They make a habit of showing they care and keeping communication lines open. Showing empathy builds trust so that leaders can better understand employees’ work styles, motivations, and challenges. Then, they can nurture talents and remove obstacles. Forbes reports that empathy is the most important leadership skill according to research.
  • Data-driven: Today’s sales leaders have a new priority. With so much data at our fingertips in the digital age, to remain competitive sales leaders need to be analytical. This means harnessing data so that goals are based on concrete information rather than instinct.
  • Desire to lead: Other skills don’t matter if this person doesn’t want to be a leader! They must personally follow the vision and work culture that they set and serve as an example of success in the company. This individual also must be open to developing the necessary skills to be a leader in their organization.

Like with any job, sales leadership qualities must be developed; people aren’t born with them. Even when a new leader is promoted from a selling position, there is a knowledge gap caused by these new skills which they might not have had the chance to develop previously. Any company moving employees up the ladder within should keep this in mind and provide training accordingly.

Making a successful sales leader

Now that we’re all familiar with sales leadership competencies, the final step is enabling a sales leader to succeed.

Everyone can agree: Leading is hard! Sales software provides the tools for a leader to lead. Revenue Grid offers team analytics to help coach reps and give feedback based on real selling data. Its forecasting feature is also a boon when it comes to establishing long-term goals and strategies.

Check Revenue Grid’s benefits for a sales leader

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