Become an Effective Sales Leader with these Sales Leadership Styles

Sales leaders are the head of the sales department. Once great salespeople, they have collected a wealth of sales experience in not just achieving targets, but also show a high level of competency to lead an entire sales team.

Responsibilities of A Sales Leader

The role of sales leaders is very important for the success of sales organizations, as they provide the overarching strategy to ensure success of the sales team. More specifically, some of their main responsibilities include:

  1. Setting realistic sales targets and developing sales strategies to help achieve those targets.
  2. Hiring and providing sales training to sales reps, and ensuring that all members of the sales team have the necessary skills and knowledge to be successful.
  3. Motivating and coaching the sales reps by providing feedback, guidance, and support to help them reach their full potential.
  4. Analyzing sales data and performance to identify trends, strengths, and areas for improvement, and, adjust their sales strategies accordingly.
  5. Building and maintaining relationships with key customers. These relationships are critical to the success of the sales department and the organization as a whole.

How to Become a Sales Leader

Jumping from a sales rep to promotion as a sales manager, there are certain skills to develop that can help achieve a sales leadership role, including:

  • Mastering the basics of the sales process like prospecting, cold calling, emailing, upselling, cross-selling, and closing deals.
  • Establish your management skills by seeking experience managing a sales team. Mentor a team member, train new hires, or show support to improve the sales reps performance.
  • Have great communication skills. This can help not only in building rapport with customers, teammates, and management but is crucial in negotiation, coaching, motivation, and collaboration.
  • Continue to learn, train, and build new knowledge for your career advancement and professional development.
  • Identify your leadership style to make the most out of your strengths, understand your weaknesses, and come up with a proper game plan for the team that you’ll be leading.

Sales Leadership Styles

If you are a seasoned sales leader you may relate to one of these popular sales leadership styles. If you are just starting your journey to becoming a sales leader, you can choose which approach you want to employ to help you become an effective one.

Here are some of the popular sales leadership styles:

The Authoritarian Sales Leader

Authoritarian sales leaders make one-sided decisions and delegate tasks to team members with clear expectations and deadlines. They are more focused on results and are more directive in their management style.

Common characteristics include:

  • Engage in one-way and downward communication
  • Set strict rules and enforce them rigidly
  • Discourage employee input or feedback
  • Tend to micromanage
  • Can be controlling
  • Focus on removing unnecessary disruptions
  • Often the most knowledgeable and experienced in the team

In some sales organizations, this type of sales manager can be effective and can help the sales team in some ways. They can save time and costs as decisions are quickly made by one person. This type of sales leadership style can also relieve the pressure on the sales team members, allowing them to focus on selling.

On the other hand, this leadership style can be problematic for some.. Othen, these types of sales leaders deny their sales team the opportunity to become better creative thinkers when doing their jobs.

This type of sales leadership style can also negatively affect team morale and motivation. This happens especially when sales reps feel unvalued and do not get the opportunity to develop their skills or take on new challenges.

The success of an authoritarian sales leader depends on the ability to create a positive and productive work environment, in which salespeople can meet and exceed their goals.

Despite the power to make all the decisions, they should also be attuned to the needs and motivations of the sales department to make necessary adjustments to help them succeed.

The Democratic Sales Leader

Democratic sales leaders are those who adopt a participative, consensus-building management style. They involve their team in decision-making and seek input and feedback from team members. They focus on building a more team-oriented work environment that fosters collaboration and communication.

Common characteristics include:

  • People-oriented
  • Prioritize teamwork, and employee satisfaction
  • More flexible in their management style
  • More open to new ideas
  • Value inclusivity

With this sales leadership style, sales team members are more invested in their roles as sales reps, and in effect, they build strong team relationships and create a positive and supportive work environment. The sales team feels valued and engaged and they tend to be more active and motivated in contributing their ideas.

However, the negative aspect of a democratic management style, it can slow the decision-making process as the sales leader may need to spend more time seeking input and building consensus with the entire sales team.

This type of leader can succeed in their role by effectively applying their skills in facilitating collaborative and open communication among sales team members. They must know to balance out the needs of their sales department with the needs of the entire organization. When making decisions, it should always be in the best interests of the sales organization, while always taking into consideration the opinions and perspectives of the salespeople.

The Laissez-faire Sales Leader

Laissez-faire directly translates to “Leave-Alone.” These sales leaders are the direct opposite of the authoritarian. They adopt a hands-off approach in leading and managing their sales teams. The salespeople get the freedom and autonomy to make decisions, set their own goals, and determine their own sales strategies.

Common characteristics include:

  • Believe and trust their team
  • No-rules approach
  • Encourage the team to make their own decisions
  • Celebrate minor sales results
  • Tend to rationalize poor performance of sales reps
  • Can become overly friendly

This type of sales leadership style has both benefits and drawbacks. As an advantage, it can foster creativity, initiative, and independence among the sales team members, providing high levels of motivation and job satisfaction.

As a disadvantage, the Laissez-faire sales management style can create an imbalance of power within the sales team. Because the sales team can make their own decisions, there may be some who would push their limits and do whatever they like, even if it’s against the policies.

This type of sales leadership can be effective if the sales manager knows how to properly communicate expectations, provide feedback, and create a disciplined environment in which salespeople can thrive.

The Transactional Sales Leader

Transactional sales leaders’ sales management style focuses on promoting compliance and hitting targets by relying on a system of rewards and punishments.

Common characteristics include:

  • Results-driven
  • Focus on metrics and specific goals
  • Reactive rather than proactive
  • More of a controller style of leadership

This style of sales leadership works well to drive the sales team to perform at their best. However, this method can become bonuses and incentives to become the only driver to do their job.

To be effective as a transactional sales leader, there should be a clear and proper implementation of the sales process and commission strategy. By having a defined structure, transactional leaders can achieve goals faster and more consistently.

The Transformational Sales Leader

Transformational sales leaders focus on ‘transforming’ their sales teams thinking to reach their full potential. They create a clear vision for their sales team to develop the skills, knowledge, and motivation to succeed.

Common characteristics include:

  • Visionary, charismatic, and energetic
  • Skilled at building relationships and developing their salespeople
  • Push their team to do more in their sales roles
  • Create an exciting and innovative working environment
  • Goals and target-focused
  • Desire to work solely with high-performers.

This leadership style greatly benefits the sales productivity and performance of the sales team as they tend to become more focused on achieving their sales goals. It helps in effectively determining who are the low and high performers of the sales team.

High performers will keep up with the standards of the sales manager. However, uncommitted sales reps will find it challenging as they can be stressed and pressured by the high standards and commitment to the leader they are engaged with.

The transformational sales leadership approach can be successful depending on the ability of the sales managers to create a fairly positive work environment, in which salespeople feel supported, challenged, and empowered. They require a continuous learner in adapting their leadership style as needed to meet the changing needs of the sales department and the variety of personalities of its members.

The Bureaucratic Sales Leader

Bureaucratic sales leaders are those who adhere to strict rules, procedures, and processes in managing their sales teams. They rely on established systems and protocols to guide them in their decision-making to ensure that their sales team operates in an efficient and organized manner.

Common characteristics include:

  • They are ‘by the book’ types of people
  • Open to their team’s suggestions as long as they follow the policies
  • Want order and structure
  • Lack flexibility
  • Strict in following the rules

If the organization’s goal is to maintain order and structure, this is the type of leadership style that is beneficial to them. It can result in improved productivity and efficiency for the sales team members. On the other hand, it can also lead to a lack of flexibility and creativity that can demotivate sales reps because they feel restricted in strictly following the rules and processes.

The sales leaders that utilize this leadership style must be skilled at balancing the need for structure and should still be open-minded about their team’s creativity. They should also be able to communicate properly the rules, procedures, and protocols, and the importance of the need to follow them to ensure that everyone is on the same page and works towards the same goals.

The Strategic Sales Leader

Strategic sales leaders are those who approach sales management with a long-term, results-oriented perspective. They understand the broader business and market context in which their sales team operates, and use that knowledge to create a clear and effective sales strategy.

Characteristics include:

  • Support working towards the common goal
  • Visionary, analytical, and forward-thinking
  • Identify trends
  • Assess market conditions
  • Develop clear plans and strategies
  • Lessen the need for micro-management

This sales leadership style can greatly help the sales team by aligning the sales activities with the overall business goals and objectives. They should be able to communicate the main plan to the sales team so they can execute it effectively, and be ready for big and small setbacks in the future.

Strategic sales leaders should have a deep understanding of the changing market and the competitive landscape to develop and implement strategies that the entire sales team can adopt. They should also have a higher level of commitment toward continuous improvement and adaptation.


Each type of sales leader has its strengths and weaknesses, and how it affects the sales department and the entire organization. The best approach still depends on the attitude and work styles of the sales team, as well as the specific needs of the sales team and the business.

Effective sales leaders must know how to adapt to changes and trends. They must be flexible and be able to relate to a variety of personalities and styles of the sales team. This way they can be able to mix and match the various elements of the different styles.

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