At most companies, the sales leader holds one of the most critical roles — generating new revenue, and sometimes protecting existing revenue. This responsibility comes with high pressure, high rewards, and lots of uncertainty.
These executive positions can vary considerably across industries and company stage, but all successful sales leaders must learn to build relationships, solve problems with time constraints, and consistently achieve ambitious goals. Many of these skills can be learned, but there are almost certainly people who naturally gravitate towards them.
We wanted to learn more about the personality and behavioral factors that might make someone a successful sales leader. We asked ourselves the following questions:
This is where personality intelligence comes into play, offering insights to understand the person behind the name. We used our personality intelligence platform, Crystal Knows, to analyze these sales leaders from a personality and behavioral perspective. Crystal’s data comes from millions of personality assessments, predictions, and ratings collected for almost a decade. These insights reveal population-level trends in personality traits like risk-aversion, dominance, skepticism, and more.
With this data, we found some strong trends in the personality data for Chief Revenue Officers (CROs) and VPs of Sales.
Before we break down the personality type behind pivotal roles like CROs, it’s important to understand how Crystal classifies different personalities. Crystal uses the DISC model to classify personalities into a few categories that we refer to as D (dominant), I (influential), S (steady), and C (conscientious). This framework provides valuable insights into behavioral tendencies, communication preferences, and decision-making patterns.
Below is a breakdown of the four main behavioral styles outlined in the DISC model of personalities:
Each DISC type has distinct preferences and communication styles. Understanding these differences allows you to better understand the people around you, communicate more effectively, and resonate when speaking with decision-makers.
Crystal's extensive database suggests that while each sales leader's personality is unique, certain characteristics recur more frequently in these roles.
CROs predominantly displayed a high Dominance (D) trait. The data indicated that they were goal-driven, assertive, and unafraid to take bold decisions. However, an underlying streak of Influence (I) was also evident, reflecting their need to engage and persuade effectively.
VP Sales, akin to CROs, leaned heavily into Dominance (D). They exhibited an eagerness for results but paired with a noticeable inclination towards the Steadiness (S) trait, indicating a focus on team cohesion and sustainable, long-term growth.
Directors of Sales displayed a balanced profile of Dominance (D) and Conscientiousness (C). They paired their drive for results with an attention to detail, ensuring their teams met quality standards while pursuing targets.
Sales Managers leaned slightly more toward the Influential (I) quadrant. They were the bridge between upper management and sales reps, necessitating exceptional communication skills. However, a steady mix of Dominance (D) was present, ensuring they met department goals.
The Dominance (D) trait emerged as the most common among sales leaders across the board. This inclination towards result-oriented, assertive behaviors is understandable, given the pressure of revenue targets and the need to lead with authority. Furthermore, a sprinkling of Influence (I) was also prevalent, a testament to their roles demanding effective communication and relationship-building.
The least common trait among sales leaders was a pronounced Steadiness (S) or Conscientiousness (C) profile. However, this doesn't mean these traits are undesirable. For instance, in industries like healthcare or data-driven companies, where precision and consistency are paramount, sales leaders with a higher S/C inclination might be more prevalent. So, while these might be the outliers in the general sales landscape, they could be the norm in niche sectors.
At their core, CROs often gravitate towards a Dominance (D) profile. This isn't by chance; the world of sales and revenue is fraught with challenges that require a relentless, goal-driven mindset, especially when you’re a C-level or VP-level executive. Directing large teams, setting ambitious revenue targets, and determining business trajectories require both assertiveness and a competitive spirit — hallmarks of a high (D) profile. The table below reveals how Crystal categorizes sales leaders with different job titles into a DISC personality.
Positive z-score (+) : Strong positive correlation with specific DISC types
Negative z-score (-) : Strong negative correlation with specific DISC types
However, the role of a CRO isn't just about dominance and achieving goals. It's multifaceted and requires a balance of multiple skills and personality traits. This is where the Influence (I) trait comes into play. The Influence (I) trait is characterized by an individual's ability to persuade, inspire, and establish meaningful connections. A CRO's position involves extensive interactions, both within and outside the organization — requiring them to be effective communicators, exuding charisma and building rapport quickly. Whether it's rallying sales teams, presenting to the board of directors, negotiating with partners, or engaging with clients, their days are often filled with meetings and communications. Moreover, the relationships they cultivate, be it with key clients or internal stakeholders, often play a pivotal role in the company's success.
As ambassadors of the brand and the driving force behind revenue, CROs leverage their combined Dominance and Influence traits to navigate the intricate corporate landscape, ensuring growth, profitability, and long-term success.
Different industries present distinct challenges, even for similar roles. For CROs, their behavioral tendencies might undergo slight modulations to cater to industry-specific demands. Let’s explore these differences below.
CROs in the SaaS Industry
SaaS businesses thrive in a realm where agility is king. The sales cycle is swift, product updates are frequent, and client feedback loops are almost instantaneous. CROs in this landscape would exhibit high Dominance (D) for rapid decision-making, paired with Influence (I) to swiftly adapt to market feedback and pivot strategies accordingly.
CROs in the Pharmaceutical Industry
Contrasting the SaaS world, pharmaceuticals operate in a more structured environment. Regulatory landscapes, long-term partnership building, and larger deal sizes dictate a nuanced approach. CROs in this space might emphasize Steadiness (S), ensuring consistency in relationships, coupled with Conscientiousness (C) to navigate complex compliance and regulations.
CROs in the Real Estate Sector
Trust, reliability, and reputation are pillars of real estate. A CRO in this domain requires a blend of Steadiness (S) to foster long-lasting relationships, while Influence (I) plays a crucial role in nurturing leads and persuading potential clients in property acquisitions.
CROs in the Retail Industry
The retail arena is a whirlwind of trends, seasons, and consumer preferences. CROs need a sharp Dominance (D) trait to strategize in this fast-paced world, complemented by Influence (I) to tune into market voices and adapt sales strategies in real time.
CROs in the Automotive Industry
Automotive sales encompass not just selling vehicles, but a lifestyle. Longer sales cycles, brand reputation, and the tactile nature of sales (test drives, showroom visits) require a balanced DISC profile. Dominance (D) for assertive branding and market positioning pairs with Conscientiousness (C) to ensure the highest standards of service and product delivery.
Using Crystal Knows, companies can get a clear picture of what drives their leaders, including their Chief Revenue Officers (CROs). By understanding a CRO's personality, teams can more effectively work alongside them — not only fine-tuning their approach to selling and strategizing but improving inter-office communications and ultimately, driving growth.
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