Top 6 Characteristics of a Successful VP of Sales


By Lauren Dichter, Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing

The VP of Sales is one of the most important roles within a B2B company. They’re at the top of the sales totem pole (unless there’s a CRO) and are therefore the internal face of the organization’s success.

But how can they ensure their Sales Development Reps, Market Development Reps, Sales Team Leads, Account Executives, Sales Team Managers, Account Managers and the like are working like a well-oiled machine? How can a VP of Sales ensure sales success in a way that reflects glowingly on him/herself and the company as a whole?

The entire sales org is key to making the VP of Sales and the company look good, but the VP of Sales is key to ensuring the sales org’s success. Who the VP of Sales is at their core, plus the skills he/she gained along the way will be huge contributors to the effectiveness of the sales process.

If a VP of Sales wants to do their job right and gain positive recognition from both the sales team they lead and the C-suite they report to, there’s no better place to start than striving to achieve the following 6 attributes of a stellar VP of Sales:

  1. Has command of the business

It’s important for a VP of Sales to know the numbers and provide insights because using that information strategically brings legitimacy, competence, and confidence to the role. The knowledge also enables a VP of Sales to forecast with more accuracy.

  1. Possesses the attitude and ability to adapt

A VP of Sales needs to be the opposite of complacent with the status quo, because what worked last year may not work again this year. A key characteristic is that the leader knows how to iterate in a way that applies lessons learned from past results so that the new results improve. The person in this role should be constantly monitoring, assessing, and upgrading investments in people, processes, and technologies.

  1. Recruits and hires the right sales leaders

Hiring the right sales leaders is extremely important, because paying a salary to someone who cannot help salespeople perform at the necessary level is one of the costliest mistakes a company can make. VPs of Sales need to know what attributes they look for in a new sales leader hire.

Is it sales experience? Particular personality traits? Most likely it’s a combination of the two, but the bottom-line is that hiring the right sales leaders saves companies a fortune in potential lost revenue due to inadequate training and coaching for sales reps, damaged client relationships, and more.

  1. Thinks strategically, like a business leader

The VP of Sales needs to be aware of the changing B2B selling landscape. They need to strategize based on exactly how they want to see sales improve. Are they hoping for an increase in sales to a specific vertical? Or an increase in sales that originates from outbound email prospecting?

The best VPs of Sales make sure sales goals are specific enough to warrant highly specific tactics. In this way, the effect different tactics have on a company’s sales becomes measurable and repeatable.

Great Sales VPs also know how to motivate salespeople. They understand the sales team thrives off of incentives. A strategic and business-minded VP of Sales will find out what drives his/her salespeople to sell and can then use it as leverage.

For example, to boost sales during a certain time frame, a savvy VP of Sales might create a competition between various sales teams within the org, in which the winning team gets to spend the last Friday of the month wine-tasting. Of course, not all VPs of Sales have this kind of disposable money to pay for such prizes, but the most strategic-minded sales leaders will find a way to incentivize.

  1. Develops strong relationships

A solid VP of Sales easily develops strong relationships within the sales department, with the marketing department, with the C-suite executives, and with customers. They know relationship-selling and relationship-marketing are key to retaining customers in the B2B industry. Soft skills can make all the difference, and the best VPs of Sales serve as relationship-building role models for the rest of the sales org to learn from.

  1. Has a high EQ (Emotional Intelligence)

A top VP of Sales has a high EQ and strives to improve the EQs of everybody in the sales org. They know how pivotal emotional intelligence is to sales success, especially in relationship-selling. The best sales VPs will intentionally come up with ways to develop the following core competencies/traits among the sales team:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Control
  • Self-Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Curiosity
  • Resilience
  • Relationship Management
  • Socialization
  • Stress Management
  • Active Listening

We believe these 6 attributes make up a top-notch VP of Sales. That said, we’d love to hear about this topic from you! If you’re a VP of Sales or work with one, what’s your opinion of this list—do you agree? Is there anything important you’d add to it? Comment below!