sales leader

Successful Sales Leaders: What Type of Sales Leader is Right For Your Team?

The 5 Different Types of Sales Leaders…Which One Your Business Needs To Succeed

We all know that sales leaders play a big role in determining a company’s performance. But what exactly is a sales leader? What types are there, and what do they do?

When it comes to sales leadership, there are plenty of misconceptions about what these positions really entail, but, there are only 5 different types of sales leaders that every business owner needs to understand. 

Each of these roles has very different duties and requirements. This post will discuss the differences between these 5 sales leadership roles, so you can better understand who you need to lead your sales team.

Sales Hierarchy

When a company chooses their first sales leader, often they hire the wrong type of leader because they think all sales leaders are built the same. 

In reality, each level of growth demands its own unique leader with a specific level of expertise and skill set…who you need to hire depends on what stage the company is in and determines the type of sales leader you should recruit.

The higher up the sales hierarchy you go, the more strategic the role becomes.

The lower you go, the more technical the role is.

The following infographic shows what we’re talking about…

As you can see, there’s a wide variety in the types of work different sales leaders are expected to perform. 

Choosing the right one for your team is a crucial aspect of creating a successful, revenue-generating sales team!

Not every company will need every one of these leaders, but as you grow, expect to onboard at least a few…

Each position has a distinct description, and there will be required strengths they must have at each level to be effective. Make sure you don’t make the mistake of getting distracted by titles, and are hiring based on your needs and their skill set.

Sales Manager

Mostly, Sales Managers are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the sales team. They do almost zero process setting, and instead, they follow the processes someone else has established.

The Sales Manager must set the direction for the sales team.

They’re responsible for making sure the sales team operates efficiently, effectively, and ethically. They must manage the sales team by guiding the team to achieve the overall sales strategy, vision, and direction.

Effective Sales Managers keep their sales team organized and focused. They are responsible for maintaining and improving the sales culture on the team.

Above all, it’s their responsibility to coach and guide the team while supporting them as they work together to achieve the goals set by the business owner or higher-level sales leadership.

Director of Sales

This is where you need to look for a strategic thinker in your hiring process.

The Director of Sales position requires someone who is still “in the weeds” of the daily operation of the sales team but also can think of the future. 

Often, they’re the bridge that takes you from where you are, to where you want to be.

Look for candidates who show strong leadership qualities…they’ll bring stability and consistency to the team. You should also be looking for candidates with a “can-do” attitude, and someone willing to accept new responsibilities.

One caution: as this is the first step in the greater sales hierarchy, do not make the mistake of just promoting a well-performing Sales Manager! They may be very successful as a Sales Manager, but if they aren’t a strategic thinker, they will not succeed in this new role.

Vice President of Sales

This position is significantly more strategic than a Director of Sales position. At this stage of experience, you can expect that a VP of Sales will have done at least one of the following…

  • Successfully taken a company into a new market
  • Archived significant vertical growth
  • Expanded a national business internationally

A quality Vice President of Sales has been taught to think strategically, and has frequently and consistently demonstrated their ability to lead with the company’s growth in mind.

The trade-off is they may have lost some of the technical knowledge they once had since they’ve been out of daily operations for a while. Do not expect them to be concerned with the minutia of your sales process or ask them to get involved with hiring…

They are there to create big-picture ideas and help improve your company’s growth and reach.

Executive Vice President of Sales

An Executive Vice President of Sales should be focused 80% on strategy and 20% on execution. They are more strategic than a Vice President of Sales, and often have a much larger area to manage…the entire country, a very large region, or possibly a significant international territory.

The EVP of Sales sets the strategy for the sales leaders underneath them, in addition to managing sales departments as a whole. You can expect them to oversee the entire inside, outside, and channel partner sales teams.

Think of an Executive Vice President of Sales as the first unifier of a diverse sales team…they mostly create the strategy and manage sales leaders, but they still have limited involvement in the daily operations of the sales team as they carry out their job functions.

Chief Revenue Officer

A Chief Revenue Officer is concerned only with strategy…their job is to apply their knowledge and look for ways to improve.

They are in charge of all departments, all verticals, and all territories. The CRO sets the strategy which then trickles down to the rest of the sales team.

They are concerned with two things: Growth and Revenue.

A Chief Revenue Officer’s job is to think strategically about how to make more money from more territories in the most efficient way possible. They are not involved in the daily aspects of running the sales team.

Key Takeaways

It’s important to know which level of sales leadership your company needs to succeed. Often, we see businesses getting confused by their options, or worse: influenced by the allure of certain titles.

A typical example recently played out with a new client of ours…

At first, they were looking for a Sales Manager, but then switched gears and thought they needed a VP of Sales.

They bought into the hype that job titles mean something beyond being a clear description of a job.

By looking at their current sales, projected sales/targets, and by meeting with their current team, we realized what they really needed was a  Director of Sales…someone who could be a strategic thinker and help them expand, but who still had the ability to work directly with and influence the sales team.

For them, creating the position and hiring for a Director of Sales was an opportunity to find someone who was still technical enough to support the existing sales team, but also strategically able to support them in the scalable growth they were on target to achieve. 

The client was happy, the team did well, and growth and revenue both exceeded expectations and projections.


There’s no denying the importance of sales leadership in today’s complex and fast-paced market. Unfortunately, when it comes to sales leadership, many companies fail to differentiate between the many types of sales leaders—from the transactional and tactical to the strategic and transformational. 

This often leads to confusion and misalignment of goals within the sales organization and a lack of alignment among sales managers and their teams. That’s why it’s so important to understand what each type of sales leader is and how they differ.

If you’re ready to take your business’ sales leadership to the next level, click here to schedule your FREE 30-minute analysis. We’ll help you determine what type of sales leader you need for your growing team, and show you how our data-driven hiring apporcah can help you recruit and onboad the right candidate, the first time.

900 400 Improve Growth
Share this article
Privacy Preferences

When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in the form of cookies. Here you can change your Privacy preferences. It is worth noting that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we are able to offer.

We use cookies on our website to give you the most relevant experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits. By clicking “Accept”, you consent to the use of ALL the cookies.