8 Insights About Top Sales Leaders [Research]

top sales leadersWhat qualities and behaviors make the best sales leaders?

University of California professor of sales strategy Steve W. Martin set out to answer that question when he interviewed more than 1,000 sales leaders. He combined that with the answers from over 400 sales leaders who completed an extensive sales management performance study to put together the 7 attributes of the most effective sales leaders.

Below is a list of the most noteworthy statistics Steve’s research uncovered, along with some of his qualitative observations of the best sales leaders.

8 Research-Based Insights on Top Sales Leaders:

1. High-performing sales leaders hit quota at a significantly higher rate than under-performing sales leaders.

  • Stat: High-performing sales leaders reported an overall average annual quota attainment of 105% compared to 54% for underperforming sales managers.
  • Observation: “All sales leaders are battlefield commanders who must devise the organization’s sales strategy to defeat the competition. This requires plotting the best course of action to maximize revenue using the most cost-effective sales model. Great sales leaders possess the knowledge to correctly deploy field or inside salespeople, to segment the market into verticals, and to specialize sales teams by product or customer types when necessary,” Steve said.

2. Have great sales managers positively impacts the entire sales organization.

  • Stat: 69% of salespeople who exceed their annual quota rated their sales manager as being excellent or above average.

3. Having great sales managers is correlated with running great organizations.

  • Stat: 56% of salespeople who rated their sales organization as excellent also rated their sales manager as excellent (compared to only 3% who rated their organization as average).

4. High-performing sales leaders also demonstrated a notable difference in particular personality traits.

  • Stats: Against their underperforming peers, top managers scored 19% higher in self-discipline, 20% higher in being success-driven and 27% higher in being priority-focused.

5. Top sales leaders run metrics-driven teams.

  • Stat: 75% of high-performing sales managers agreed that their salespeople are consistently measured and held accountable against their quota, compared to 58% of underperforming sales managers.
  • Observation: “Great sales leaders establish firm command over their team by exercising the power their title and position entail. For example, they hold their team to a higher level of accountability,” Steve writes in the article.   

6. Not only do top sales leaders perform well themselves, but they surround themselves with a team of high-performing individuals.

  • Stats: 72% of high performing sales managers rated the sales team they manage as excellent or above average, compared to 54% for underperforming sales managers. Conversely, 46% of underperforming sales managers rated their team as average or below average, while only 28% of high performing sales managers thought so.

7. The best sales leaders also make great salespeople.

  • Stat: High performing managers estimate they have achieved their annual quota 88% of the time over the course of their career.

8. And that the best sales leaders engage in daily sales activity management.

  • Stat: 43% of high-performing sales managers responded that their sales process was closely monitored, strictly enforced, or automated, compared to 29% of underperforming sales managers.
  • Observation: “Sales managers who closely monitor and strictly enforce a sales process are more likely to exceed their quotas, and the best sales leaders seek to control the daily behavior of their sales teams,” Steve explains.  

There’s a lot more to Steve’s research. Read the full article here to learn what he found to be the seven most important attributes of top sales leaders.

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