It’s not planned for, sometimes not even talked about, but sales culture is that fundamental component of a sales organization that can tip the scale between being weak and being high performing.
Build the right culture for your organization and you’re building success. When it’s not right, however, you will suffer from a sluggish workforce–something that’s severely dangerous to any business.
The number one culprit in a sales organization needs a culture overhaul?
Many businesses and sales leaders are convinced that their sales teams are performing at level that is adequate. Many sales organizations are running on low but is seeing green. This complacency–this illusion–kills success.
Sales organizations, when content with their current performance, never realize their potentials and fall short of delivering on what their resources and skills can.
But, what is sales culture, really?
It’s the combination of values, shared business beliefs, environment and framework that a sales organization operates within.
To build a winning sales culture, I believe there are key ingredients and not one could be left behind.
Here they are.
Updated sales practices
Take a quick review at a salesperson’s desk. If it has a landline phone and a big stack of notepads, you’re probably stuck in 1994.
Are you limiting your sales force by still using practices that are out of date and ineffective in today’s business landscape? Are you still using practices that worked before but are proving ineffective today but you’re adamant at making them work?
Truth to tell, in this day and age of analytics, it’s not very difficult to determine what works and what doesn’t–even if it’s only the time of day to call or the number of touches a salesperson should make before stashing the lead for a callback at a later date.
The agile methodology has been introduced to business and the best department to implement it is sales. If something doesn’t work, your sales force should be guided to quickly adjusting and testing new practices. An agile and data-driven sales force is in the best position to succeed. That’s a culture you want to have.
A visible mission statement
Is it cheesy? Could be. Is it effective? Yes.
Motivation is driven by success. When an organization has a unified focus and shared values, employees buy in more. An ambitious and powerful statement reminds the sales force that they are part of something greater than their everyday activities. A statement that’s visible to them every day in their work environment is a constant reminder that they are part of a bigger organization with a mission.
There is no such thing as a plug-and-play sales culture. It is build from top to bottom.
How the sales force perceives their leaders is an essential factor as to how a sales culture is built. If they see c-suite and sales leaders coming in early and putting in extra work, that shows them that everyone is in the building to deliver.
A problem here is that performance, without looking at the numbers, is mostly a game of appearances. Your sales force’s perception of leaders’ performance is just as important as your actual performance.
Is your organization participating in performance recognition programs in your industry? Are tardy people tolerated? Are leaders hands on or are always in their office except a few hours before reporting?
Although perceptions are often no true, considering how salespeople see the company as a whole through sales leaders contributes to their morale and the feelings they associate with work.
A winning sales culture can only be built by a company that celebrates hard work and success–and exhibits both.
Encouraging feedback and suggestions
Salespeople are the most involved professionals when it comes to the sales process. Sales leaders and managers oversee and analyze–but salespeople are in the field and on the phone, doing the grunt work.
When things are working, salespeople are happy. When things are not, should salespeople be grumpy? Only in a company with a sales culture that doesn’t encourage crowdsourcing ideas, so to speak.
New work practices suggested by salespeople shouldn’t be dismissed. Remember, suggestions indicate that salespeople are owning their work–they care about leads and closes. That’s something many sales organizations salivate after. When a sales force is bought in, it drives performance.
Suggested practices introduces a new level of accountability from the side of a sales person. No excuses here! And, they will do their best to make the practice work.
Of course, there is always the possibility that new practices introduced would work. Imagine if a salesperson was able to push a practice that no one has thought or implemented before and it turns out to boost sales performance? This can be considered as something the whole sales force can adopt as a standard practice.
A sales culture that invites ideas apart from everyday productivity will motivate salespeople. It is an ingredient. When salespeople know that leaders put value in their ideas and are listening to their concerns, they are more driven to contribute to make the team succeed.
Related to a previous point, not being open to feedback and suggestion puts a team in danger of being archaic. Encouraging salespeople to be critical of the processes and always be looking for better ways to do things are things that foster a healthy sales culture.
Incentives and recognition
Sales is a high pressure field–that’s why motivation is a key driver of performance. Salespeople need to be constantly motivated and it’s not an issue that they’re not discipline enough to keep the energy. Salespeople deal with different situations day in and out, meaning different things motivate them.
Monetary incentives like spiffs and performance bonuses work well but sometimes, they are not enough and might not even work for some people.
As sales becomes competitive on a high level industry-wide, the same components of competition can be implemented on the sales floor.
Have you heard of gamification?
It is the practice of taking gaming mechanics and applying it to businesses to drive growth. Gamification can be in the form of having a leaderboard where salespeople compete on several metrics. Studies show that gamification is being adopted quickly by many sales organizations–and for good reason. They allow you to recognize salespeople’s efforts in a way that doesn’t foster a toxic culture in your company.
Aside from gamifying sales, simple gestures from sales leaders like notes and even pats on the back work great when used in value.
Make salespeople better
A sales organization that’s only obsessed with sales is inevitably going to be a toxic workplace for salespeople. Make the company invest in making the sales force grow.
In most companies, investing in the professional growth of employees is key. Why don’t we apply that in sales? Salespeople should be updated with the trends, new technologies and industry news. Taking courses that are not only about sales but even those that are tangential to your vertical should be encouraged and supported. Even books that teach new ideas is a good way to break through learning in your sales organization.
Sales is no different in other industries in that new practices are always introduced. Do you want a sales force that’s left out in the dark? Have they had discussions on inbound marketing, consultative selling and why inside sales is now all the rage?
Adopting new sales practices and keeping salespeople abreast with them is key in a winning sales culture. If you’re not encouraging excellence by making sure that proper and effective practices are in place, there’s no way salespeople will buy in the “culture” you are building.
Proactively weed out negative thinking and negative salespeople
It’s the bitter truth. There are going to be rotten tomatoes. Salespeople who spread lies about management and encourage other people to perform poorly because they are not doing very good. This negativity spreads fast and is one of the biggest killers of culture in any business and department, not only in sales.
Negativity breeds dissatisfaction. So long as you’re managing your good people well and you’re quite sure that the dissatisfaction is unfounded, there should be a way to identify sources of negativity and halt them quick.
Negative people are often convinced that they’re not responsible for their poor performance. It’s always the management, the tool, the salary, the schedule, the leads, marketing…a long, long list.
A positive attitude goes a long way in sales. Negativity spreads like wildfire and doesn’t only affect the person imbibing it–it can affect the entire team. Nip it at the bud by actively addressing concerns as they come. Constantly evaluate performance and enforce constructive coaching.
Uneven development is real and it is evident in sales. A team of winners is not a product of a hiring process. Like leads, hires and employees are continuously nurtured, made better and managed.
Is the sales force actively encouraged to reach their full potentials? Are you pinpointing areas of improvement and enabling reps to work on them?
When you have someone left behind, it’s not really an automatic firing that’s going to solve the issue.
Underperformers need to be nurtured. They need to be trained, coached and developed into winners. It’s not always a matter of skill that’s holding salespeople back. Maybe they are not used to being in a winning sales culture and the attitude of “good enough” has gotten into them.
Teach and guide these salespeople to constantly win, and they will be an asset to any team.
A winning sales force
Why do you want to build a positive, high-perfoming, productivity-driven sales culture? So you can reach targets right?
As you’ve probably noticed here on our list, the main focus of building a sales culture that wins and sticks is the sales force. A winning sales force encourages a winning sales culture, and that works vice versa.
What does sales culture mean to you? Are you actively building it in your organization?
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