Sales Management: Key Roles, Responsibilities & Attributes of a Great VP of Sales

I frequently hear a question about what makes someone a good VP of Sales when companies are looking for one.  So below are some of the fundamental attributes of a successful and effective VP of Sales.

(And also want to make a point – there is something specific that is missing – and correctly so – but which many companies erroneously look for when recruiting a VP of Sales. It’s “industry experience” or the experience of selling a specific product or already being in the same or some specific industry.  Please see more about that in the last part below.

Also, at a high level – first and foremost – a Sales Leader (or any executive) is hired to make decisions that achieve results.  More specifically – to make effective decisions, design processes and systems, and hire and lead people so that the sales group achieves its intended objectives which in turn produce successful results .  A Sales Leader / Executive is brought into their position for their ability, knowledge, and insight which are all about the points above and good decision-making. That’s the high level representation of what a corporate executive is there to do and what they bring to the table in general terms.


Key Roles & Attributes


1. People Manager:

Note that I put the “People Manager” role first because a company only as good as its People and people questions and issues are the most important ones in any managerial role.

  • Can built teams and can attract and recruit A-level world-class professionals
  • Good leader and genuinely cares about their team
  • Ability to coach, develop, inspire and motivate teams
  • Good communicator and active listener
  • Positive and has some charisma to steer the team through challenges
  • Align a team under a shared vision and common objectives
  • Knows their team members well and what motivates each person
  • A true “relationship builder” (a recurring theme for an effective executive)
  • Team player across all business functions and good peer-to-peer too
  • Knows all types of situations when to invest in and coach the employee or when to transition people out

2. Sales Manager:

3. Customer Manager:

  • True and loyal advocate for the Customer
  • Customer-centric and Customer-focused
  • Empathy and ability to understand the customer and their problems and needs
  • Steers the team to provide an engaging and exceptional buying experience to the customers
  • Aligns a Sales Process to match the way that customers want to buy
  • Enables a customer-centric culture in sales and across all business groups at the company
  • A true “relationship builder” (a rarer skill today than it was a few decades ago) – builds relationships with the customers and can train and coach the team to do the same

4. Business  Manager:

  • Organizational leadership skills
  • Strategic thinker with strong business acumen
  • Understands how the company works and how all the business functions are interlocked together to achieve the top strategic objectives
  • Results-driven with ability to hit short-term results while strategically thinking long term
  • Understands a higher level Business Strategy that is more than just the sales strategy and can participate effectively in Strategic Planning
  • Business Planning & Budgeting
  • Open-Minded, creative problem solver with lateral thinking abilities
  • Resourceful, adaptable and resilient
  • Relationship builder – with their team, with peers, with the leaders of all business functions
  • Ability to align well with other business functions and achieve shared and common goals working with other executives
  • Can resolve and steer the business to overcome organizational issues
  • Board of Directors Accountability


P.S. Note: Why “Industry Experience” is *NOT* on the List of Key Attributes or Requirements

The best Team Builders and Sales Executives (and CEOs) know this fact:  there is no secret sauce in having the experience of selling a particular products in a particular industry.  It’s certainly a “nice to have” experience but it’s not critical at all.  Managing sales teams and selling is more about being a manager or a sales professional and not some sort of expert in some kind of product or industry.  And learning about a product or industry is easy – but learning about selling effectively and managing sales teams is what really creates value.  I wrote about it in “The Fallacy of Industry Experience“.  Some of the best VP of Sales candidates will be outside of your industry and they can scale your revenue exceptionally well irrespective of the industry or product.  They can also bring some fresh perspective and “outside the box” best practices that will completely change the trajectory for your company – so don’t add “______ Industry / Product Experience” to this list (it’s the last thing you should think about).


What else?  What are some other attributes you’d want to see in a great VP of Sales / CRO?