5 Steps To Become a Sales Leader According To Experts

Your desk name plate says “Sales Manager”, but somehow you feel that all strategic leadership decisions come through c-suits above. However, your team members may see you as a leader more than you think. 

“She easily communicates what she wants.”

“He makes the right decision in a crisis.”

“She knows how to delegate tasks.”

The fact is that sales managers are also sales leaders, whether they know it or not. Now, you need to develop your leadership skills to maximize the sales performance of your team, and become the sales leader in your team’s results, too.

What defines a leader?

When you think about great leaders, whether political, social, or religious figures – they all have a few basic leadership traits in common:

  • Their followers respected, trusted, and believed in them. 
  • People followed them to a “better place” through hardships.
  • They brought about positive changes

 As a sales leader, you also need to have followers who believe you’ll bring about positive changes – sales performance and lead them to a better place.

Ultimate sales leader qualities

Sales manager apart, a sales leader can perform many job positions, like Vice President of Sales, Chief Revenue Officer, or Director of Sales. In a small business, they are often the business owner or president.


But whatever the job title or role, there’s an uninterrupted streak of qualities that runs through all sales leadership positions:

  • Able to coach – Can give instructions and mentorship on sales and leadership drawing from their knowledge and experience. 
  • Charismatic – Inspire their sales team through the ability to motivate and lead.
  • Communicative – Able to exchange information clearly but also listen to others. 
  • Decisive – Make even the toughest decisions quickly and effectively. 
  • Emotionally intelligent – Understand and able to manage the emotions of others. Help others overcome challenges and mitigate conflicts. 
  • Strategic – Can see the bigger picture of the business and sales operations beyond their team. Create the roadmap for meeting their goals.  

For each of these to work best, it’s important for a sales leader to have the experience and results in sales operations. This way they can connect with sales managers and reps they’re in charge of.

Sales leader vs sales manager

The terms “leadership” and “management” are often used interchangeably when it comes to sales, there’s a difference between these two. 

  • Sales leaders focus on creating the bigger picture for sales revenue and growth goals. They also plan the sales culture. 
  • Sales management focuses more on the operational/management side to fulfill the vision created by the leadership. A sales manager may hire the sales team, provide necessary training, and maintain the day-to-day motivation to keep productivity high. 

Let’s now break up the roles of these two positions:

All this considering, there’s no law saying that a great sales leader can at the same time be a great sales manager and vice versa.   

How to become a sales leader

Use your sales experience

It’s hard to be a legitimate sales leader if you don’t have any experience in the business operation of the department you’re leading. 

Just as you wouldn’t like someone with no accounting or financial management skills to become a Chief Financial Officer, the same applies to a sales leadership role.

As you advance to the positions of sales development rep, account executive, team leader, and sales manager, get into a habit of taking notes of things you learn along the way.

These include the best ways to close sales deals, motivate a team, or train someone. The decisions of a sales leader affect everyone below, so it’s essential that you develop an ability to empathize and develop rapport with your team members. 

Your experience would be invaluable for solving problems you may have had during your time as a sales rep or account executive. For example, if you’ve always found it nerve-racking to complete repetitive tasks that could easily be automated, now it’s the time to use your “power” to improve sales automation practices in your team. 

Data from HubSpot shows that 61% of high-performing sales leaders automate parts of their sales process.

Hone your leadership skills

No one argues that experience in sales processes and operations is essential for sales leadership. However, general leadership skills are just as important. 

These include communication skills, the ability to coach, emotional intelligence, decisiveness, and the ability to strategize. Whatever your job role, these leadership traits apply. 

The good news is that you can hone your leadership skills by taking courses and gathering knowledge during your time in a team-leadership or middle-management position. You can also enroll in sales training programs for sales management executives that focus specifically on sales management leadership.

Adopt sales leadership tools

A capable sales leader uses software tools to automate processes, organize information, and help their sales team. 

Sales performance management is an essential responsibility of a sales leader. This is why you need tools that help you easily set and track sales goals, as well as help your team become more efficient and better equipped to fulfill your vision. 

This includes sales enablement products, such as Better Proposals. It’s an online proposal builder that allows your sales team to digitize their proposing process. 

Why bother with creating and editing countless Word proposal forms? Your team can get professionally written and designed digital proposal templates that look like an extension of your website.  

Our proposal templates come preloaded with engaging copy, graphics, and videos that your team is welcome to edit and replace with their own.


But Better Proposals is not just about flash & glitz. There are brains behind it, too. Your team can track every proposal they send and even see when the client opens it. Then they can contact them using the live chat to promptly answer any doubt and move the deal to a close. 

And when I say close, I mean the whole nine yards. 

Every proposal comes with an electronic signature box and payment integrations, so your clients can approve and pay from within. 


This significantly improves the speed of both closing the deal and you getting paid

On top of it, the platform comes with formidable analytics, so your sales specialists can track the performance of proposals they send.

Find a mentor

Watching a sales leader in their natural environment is a great way to learn the ropes and fill in the gaps in the knowledge you gained through your own experience and training programs. 

Apart from seeing what it takes to be a sales leader firsthand, you can better understand their day-to-day challenges. Since a mentor is often the top advocate for your promotion, some organizations have mentorship or leadership development programs already in place. 

If you work at a company that doesn’t have a mentorship program, take the initiative. Tell a sales executive that you would like to gain an understanding of their role by shadowing them

Company-sponsored mentorship programs can give you additional training sessions, leadership role-playing opportunities. This way, you get the ability to apply some of the things you learn during job shadowing.

Pursue sales leadership positions

Here’s the deal – every business is different when it comes to handling promotions. But one thing is certain – if you want to become a sales leader, you need to show that you’re interested in moving up

Show your interest to those above you in the hierarchy, the HR department, or the specific board that is responsible for executive placement. 

You’ll have the best chances if you do it as early as possible, so they can put you on the right track for the promotion.

But what if there aren’t any leadership openings soon at your current firm?

Then start shopping around the job market for other sales leadership positions in companies looking for an outside hire.  

On the other hand, maybe you’re not ready to be a sales executive but know certainly that you’d make a great sales manager. Check out the 9 best sales tools for high-performing sales managers looking to beat their quotas and streamline their team ops. 

Wrapping up

Becoming a sales leader is about visualizing the future of your sales operations and making it happen. 

While universal leadership traits are a must, you need to rely on your experience in sales management and accounts to better understand what people below you deal with. 

It also has to do with streamlining your team’s operations by providing them with the state-of-the-art sales software

Start a trial and see how Better Proposals can help you become a better sales leader today.

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