One of the biggest factors in improving sales performance are the individual sales leader qualities. Independent research, including our own at RAIN Group, has clearly shown that great sales managers and leaders have a massive and disproportionate impact on win rates, sales force motivation, retention of key sellers and – interestingly – seller mindset and motivation.

In short, if you want better sales results, focus on hiring better sales leaders.

But what exactly makes a “better sales leader” ? What are some sales leader qualities that you should be looking for when deciding who to hire in key positions inside your organization ?

From experience and research, I’ve compiled a list of 11 qualities that make a great sales leader. But don’t think of this list as exhaustive. Think of it as a place to start.

#1. Transparency

Great sales leaders (and great leaders in general) are transparent about their objectives, goals and motivations. They don’t play political games, or keep hidden agendas. They tend to read like an open book, and be clear about what they are trying to accomplish, and what it’s going to take.

A great sales leader doesn’t hide from the facts, either. If the road ahead is tough, he (or she) will be up front about the challenges, and the journey to get to where they need to go.

#2. Confidence

Great leaders are confident, especially in the face of chaos and uncertainty. This doesn’t mean they operate with blinders on, or refuse to be open up to input and criticism from others.

It simply means they have a quiet, inner compass that guides their actions and lets them know they’re on the right track. They exude confidence, but mixed in with a little humility. They’ll welcome input from others, but will ultimately make up their own mind.

#3. Focus

As I’ve had to discover for myself, focus is a key aspect of success in any area of life and business. If you truly want to excel at something, you’ll need to invest in that area to the exclusion of everything else. At least for a time.

As Daniel Goleman (author of the appropriately named book “Focus: The Hidden Driver Of Excellenc”) says, “One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us”.

Great leaders know there are a thousands things to do every day – but maybe only one worth doing. Click To Tweet

#4. Inspiration

Great sales leaders don’t just build focus for themselves – they are able to inspire others to focus as well. In short, they act as an inspiration to their teams, their peers and their organization.

This doesn’t mean that every sales leader has to live up to the image of the stereotypical “charismatic leader” (whatever that is). It means they are able to inspire others – through their words, actions and behaviors – to follow in their footsteps.

#5. Kindness

I find that kindness is a word underused in business. At its purest, it simply means to go easy on others when the situation calls for it. True leaders know when it’s time to take the foot off the gas for a moment, and simply “sit down” with someone.

They understand that “when the going gets tough”, it’s not always “the tough who get going”. They see that it’s often in those moments of adversity that we have a rare opportunity to connect with our teams on a deeper, personal level, and forge strong connections that last a lifetime.

#6. Passion

There’s no leadership without passion.

People don’t follow those without passion, because there’s nothing to follow.

Great sales leaders are passionate, and they express that passion on a daily basis. Passion for results. For clients. For their people. For their products.

Being a nay-sayer is easy. Being passionate is not.

Great leaders find their passion within themselves, and bring it out to the world.

#7. Open-mindedness

If confidence is a key quality for any sales leader, then open-mindedness is a close second. Without an open mind, confidence turns into dogmatic thinking. It closes us off to the world, to second opinions and to alternative (and often better) options.

Open-mindedness is like the conscious of confidence. It keeps us honest, flexible and humble.

#8. Persistence

Without the power of persistence, passion and focus are simply words. It is often in the passionate pursuit of our goals that we connect with our higher selves, transcending our own boundaries, and inspire others to do the same.

Persistence is key for leaders – because if you don’t walk out at the front of the line, who will? Click To Tweet

#9. Accountability

Truly genuine leaders have not only high hopes, but high expectations. They religiously set goals for themselves and their teams, and monitor progress closely.

There is no duality in their thinking. You either achieve, or you don’t. And if you don’t, there’d better be a good reason why. No excuses. No fluff.

True leaders hold everyone – themselves first – accountable for results. Because they know that failing to achieve ultimately means failing ourselves.

#10. Restlessness

Great sales leaders are never satisfied with the status quo. They relentlessly seek to do better. Improve. Tweak. Aim higher. Shoot further.

Someone once told me that great leaders have “just enough anxiety”. Where I’m not a huge fan of the word “anxiety”, there is a kernel of truth in there. Great sales leaders are always looking to push the envelope – in essence, that’s what makes them great.

#11. Balance

There’s a reason why our planet has seasons. Games have half-time. Day has night.

We all need time to re-generate, re-energize and re-source ourselves. Great leaders understand that the world doesn’t function in full throttle alone, and neither do their teams.

They understand that a good life is a balanced one. With plenty of time for work and play. Great leaders have an innate sense of balance, and understand when it’s time to sow, when it’s time to harvest – and when it’s simply time to leave the field and return to the farm for dinner.

In no particular order of importance, these are 11 qualities that I see in great sales leaders. But this list is nowhere near complete. What have you seen great (sales) leaders do ? What’s missing ?