The importance of sales leadership development is often unclear and an area of low investment for organizations. Sales leader development typically lacks the structure that drives repeatability in behavior and supports a positive mindset. The sales leader’s role is also often unclear (are they a performer, a manager, or a coach?) and a sales leader’s success and growth depend on the organization’s focus on that leader and existing talent programs in place. It can also be influenced by the methodology by which leaders are put into their roles, which often occurs when a sales representative has been a high performer, not necessarily a documented leader of people and teams. The challenge for a successful salesperson-turned-leader is to put their drive to sell on the bookshelf with their trophies and learn to teach others through robust coaching and demonstration of specific leadership attributes.

So how does a company ensure a sound support system when developing its sales leaders? By recognizing that sales leaders often need more refined skills and specific mindsets to be a focus of development than what is typically offered in corporate learning and development (L&D) programs.

Focus Areas Effective Sales Leadership


Sales leaders need an eye on the prize: overall performance. Performance management in sales is unique in that there is a target and revenue, both of which must be met for sales representatives to succeed and for the company to drive income and growth. Sales leaders also need to be performance coaches with a lens on the business. They need to ensure sales representatives operate their territories like businesses, including how to organize their accounts, establish targets, and how to appropriately forecast. Leveraging the available tools to help build their business plans is also mission critical. Some companies invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) system and leave it to collect dust. Teaching leaders how to use a CRM effectively will push sales representatives to do the same. Sales leaders must operate their teams with the same mindset from a more strategic level. This may come with experience but is far more effective if it is part of a training program.


A sales leader has to support their teams by eliminating distractions and keeping the team positive throughout the up and down cycle of the sales process. It can be more intense and emotional if the sales culture is cutthroat and driven by a lucrative compensation package. This stressful environment also requires critical skills in coaching and communication. A culture of coaching with consistent motivation and inspiration is required of sales leaders almost daily. A great sales leader can coach various sales skills instead of following a single methodology. They understand the personality types on their team and can adapt their motivational approach and leverage specific talents to move the sale along. A development program that can reinforce coaching skills and leverage a real-life coach or even avatars (if delivered virtually) to help practice scenarios is a safe and effective way to get sales leaders comfortable in having these coaching discussions.

Soft Skills

Most sales leaders and representatives have a mainly self-driven and competitive mindset. That competitive drive needs to be fueled and also protected. Providing sales leaders with tools that help them recognize and clear obstacles and remove elements that are not productive is not only helpful when coaching but also helpful in reaching sales goals. Sales leadership training should help develop the soft skills required to lead a sales team effectively. This includes resolving conflicts and creating a culture of success. Good sales managers always communicate and actively listen, but not in a way that feels like micromanagement. Practicing empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ) can go far in the sales world.

The Process

Sales leaders also need to know each step of the sales process well to coach the nuances successfully. Training in communication, customer service and sales strategies can help salespeople understand how to best interact with customers, close deals, and exceed expectations. Some of the most challenging lessons in sales leadership come from more insight into how the organization works, from the product and design team, aspects of human resources, and customer service. An introduction to these teams and their function, as well as how they are partners in the sales process, should be a given in every company.

Providing Feedback

Accountability and pushing for continuous improvement are two other critical skills for a successful sales leader. The ability to provide feedback at the right moment is vital and sometimes needs to be done in front of the customer to avoid a lost sale. Situational awareness and being attuned to the verbal and non-verbal language in sales calls allows the sales leader to pinpoint their feedback. Another common issue with sales leaders is the ability to delegate and sit back during sales calls. Allowing the sales representative to guide the conversation and allowing it to get to a certain point allows for the stretching of skills. Sometimes managers step in too soon and fail to give feedback immediately after the call, which would prevent white flag moments in the future. Sales leaders need to maximize the ability to learn from mistakes, especially regarding sales messaging and closing for the business. Often, the sales leader takes on all of the critical steps of a sales call instead of focusing on how to coach the sales representative at the moment.

Social and Emotional Intelligence

Selling also involves a lot of networking and relationship building, which can be time-consuming and challenging to manage. Within this relationship building, it is essential for managers to learn and appreciate the concepts of inclusion and psychological safety, not only for team members but also for clients.


Selling can be a complex process. It requires a lot of preparation, research, and understanding of the customer’s needs. By investing in sales leadership development, you can ensure they’re equipped to lead high-performing sales teams that drive business growth well into the future.