Successful Sales Leaders

Is There a Perfect Profile for a Successful Sales Leader?

Abril 29, 2019
By Sanna-Mari Muukka

Since starting as a consultant, I have been working with fascinating people who are truly interested in and motivated by working in sales lead positions. Having almost twenty years of experience in diverse business areas, I have started pondering what actually makes a sales leader successful. At the moment, the subject is widely discussed in social media, but it seems that our own perceptions and experiences regarding the field also have an impact on the topic. As a global recruitment company, Mercuri Urval has the resources to bring new data to our discussion, and presenting new facts was in fact my intention as I began to define the profile for a perfect sales leader. Having precise data, we are able to support our clients when they are outlining their profile for their perfect sales leader.

As a benchmark, we collected data from almost hundred Executive Search projects, which has been performed during the years 2017-2018 in Finland. The positions included in the data were commercially or sales-oriented roles on a management or lead level. The assessed candidates had taken part in Executive Search projects, and they had been regarded as the best candidates possible for the positions they were evaluated for. At this point, it is fair to say that the candidates were already selected from a larger group of candidates, and their qualities were ideal regarding the success profiles which were prepared in the beginning of each Executive Search project. In fact, every professional Executive Search consultant examines the client's situation and builds a success profile for the sales lead position in the beginning of the client project. In the success profile, the client's specific needs for their business, transformation and/or sales challenges are defined.

In addition to the assessment data, I interviewed shortly ten of my contacts who are well-known in their professions, and I personally know that they have succeeded in their positions as sales leads. Based on the interviews, authentic presence at work and knowledge of clients' needs and businesses were highlighted. It is significant to know one's own team, but it was commonly commented that sales leaders do not have to know the solutions they offer to their clients in detail; certainly there are exceptions, but understanding clients' businesses was considered crucial. Otherwise, an organised, effective and lean working style was regarded essential for a successful sales leader.

Important Traits

When analysing the assessment data, the five strongest traits for sales directors that were found in the database are;

  1. Self-confidence,
  2. desire to challenge oneself towards better results,
  3. energetic and effective working style,
  4. fighting spirit or resilience when facing challenges,
  5. and ability and willingness to create new contacts or develop the network in the business.

Furthermore, it is vital to recognise five traits that are least frequently identified in the sales leader profile

  • First, a successful sales leader does not doubt others' abilities but supports them to gain success
  • He or she is not afraid of failure
  • Has a low level of impulsivity
  • Successful sales leaders understand and follow the company's rules and ways of working
  • They do not need to be appreciated by others, since they are confident in their skills, experiences and competences

There are many external things that affect the success of a sales leader, such as business situation, functions of the organisation as well as the quality of the solutions sold, but these above mentioned qualities and ways of behaviour seemed to define - at least partly - a successful sales leader.

It seems that the sales leader profile is rather similar to the general leader profile that we are accustomed to in management positions: A good leader is a strategic thinker, structured, effective and goal-oriented, constructive and coherent. He or she knows her/his team, and is able to influence challenging interfaces but more than anything else, she/he knows the client and the clients' need.

Now it would be intriguing to hear about your thoughts on this topic.

  • Is this a general sales leader profile?
  • How much of it is driven by client needs regarding a structured working environment or business specifics, for instance?
  • Or is this profile a depiction of the development of sales representatives who proceed in their careers and mature into sales leaders?

My colleagues and I are happy to support you in your development to become a successful sales leader, or in your need to recruit and identify your next successful sales lead. Click here to find contact details.


  • Successful Sales Leaders