Maybe you’ve been killing it in sales for the past few years and you’re ready to move onto the next level. Do you have the desired traits employers look for when hiring sales leadership?

Software Advice, a tech review site for sales and CRM software, recently conducted an analysis of 200 sales director job listings from job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn.

Here’s what their research found were the top in-demand traits for a sales director position.

Education Level

67 percent of employers prefer or require candidates to have a higher education degree: 33 percent required a Bachelor’s degree whereas 34 percent preferred candidates to have a bachelor’s or Master’s degree (the remaining 33 percent didn’t include a degree requirement).


In terms of educational majors, a business degree (42 percent) and a marketing degree (23 percent) were the most preferred.

Sales experience

85 percent of the sales director listings required three or more years of professional experience, with 55 percent asking for candidates with prior sales management experience.


Prior sales experience had even higher priority with 62 percent requiring five or more years of sales experience. 72 percent required industry-specific sales experience in particular.


Technical skills

29 percent of employers required CRM experience, while 8 percent desired sales force automation software knowledge.


Management skills

Software Advice’s analysis doesn’t include any details about which specific sales management skills a sales director role requires. Luckily, a recent study by Powers and colleagues asked 145 sales leaders – including 43 sales directors – to rate the importance of 15 sales management skills.

Their results reveal that sales leadership predominantly requires an interpersonal skill set: 8 out of the 15 management skills were interpersonal skills, 4 were technical skills, and 3 were strategic skills.

The top 3 important management skills were:

  1. building trust with the sales force (interpersonal)
  2. understanding the overall strategy of the organization (strategic)
  3. designing and building effective teams (interpersonal)


The takeaways

According to Software Advice’s analysis of job listings, the most important requirement for a sales director position is several years of relevant sales experience, with 5 or more years being the sweet spot.

Additional research by Powers and colleagues reveals that a sales director role requires a variety of interpersonal and strategic skills, which depending on the company, may include hiring salespeople.

So if you’re aspiring for a sales leadership role, make sure you spend your selling years wisely to include developing your strategic thinking and crucial soft skills such as building trust.

Have you made the leap from account executive to sales leadership? Share your experiences in the comments or tweet @ideal.

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices and data-based HR. She writes about trends and research in talent acquisition, people analytics, and workplace diversity.
Ji-A Min