What to Expect of Great Sales Leadership

A great sales culture starts with leaders who have these six traits.

Time to read: 2 minutes

Mike Wolff
SVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce

“How do I build a great sales culture at my company?” I get that question often from small business owners. And what I always share is that it starts with your leaders. When hiring for sales leadership roles, you have to think well beyond just promoting an experienced account executive who can drive opportunities. What you should really be looking for is a leader with the skills and upside to run a business.

Let’s take a deeper look at what you should keep an eye out for in sales leadership:

1. Emotional intelligence

Sales leaders are essentially arm-chair psychologists. They need to be able to connect with people and understand what makes them tick. They must inspire their team to learn and give positive feedback that motivates. It’s very hard to find and hire people who have emotional intelligence already. It’s even more challenging to try to teach it.

2. Talent magnet

Look for sales leaders whom people will fight to work with again. It’s crucial for them to be a talent magnet that can recruit the very best. Those who fit this description are typically leaders with a focus on the success of the team and the business first, not on their own personal success.

3. Resourcefulness

A big part of a sales leader’s job is building internal and external relationships. This should be considered one of their primary responsibilities. Those who are the most successful are typically really good at this, especially when it comes to leveraging these relationships to get stuff done and to remove any blockers along the way.

4. Strategic and tactical

There needs to be a good balance between a sales leader’s strategic and tactical qualities. Some leaders are very good at talking vision, but not rolling up their sleeves, and vice versa. The best leaders know how to build and articulate a framework around how he or she wants to run the business, while also not being afraid to get into the trenches to make it happen.

5. Operationally minded

Whether forecasting accurately, working on marketing budgets, coordinating recruiting efforts, building business cases, managing headcount, or collaborating with finance, it’s all in the details for the best sales leaders. It’s okay to say “I don’t know” occasionally, but they better be able to quickly learn the answer.

6. A proven playbook

This comes down to having a point of view around the sales process, how hiring is done, how performance is managed, sales enablement, event management, and more. They don’t need to be the best salesperson. What they do need is the ability to articulate and coach your playbook better than anyone else.

When hiring for sales leadership roles, you have to think well beyond just promoting an experienced account executive who can drive opportunities.”

Mike Wolff | SVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce

About the Author

Mike Wolff
SVP Commercial Sales, Salesforce
As SVP of commercial sales, Mike Wolff leads sales efforts across North America for Salesforce’s small and midsize business teams. Wolff joined Salesforce in 2002 and has held a number of individual contributor and leadership roles. He grew up in the Bay Area, where he still resides, and holds a political science bachelor’s degree from University of California, Davis, and an MBA in marketing from the University of San Francisco. When he’s not focused on customer success and trying to make every month, he is most often spending time with his wife and two daughters, or rooting for the 49ers, Warriors, and Giants.

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