Culture and its Impact on Sales Recruiting

Cultivating the right internal culture is an afterthought for many organizations and yet culture plays an enormous role in business success.

What is Culture?

A company’s “corporate culture” can be thought of as the general norms, traditions and assumptions that govern employee perceptions, thoughts and behaviours at work. The term “corporate culture” came into vogue in the early 1980s. Sociologists, communications professionals, and organizational behaviorists made the idea of cultivating the right corporate culture an important issue in academia, and as the term made its way into our collective consciousness, companies began adopting new approaches to creating a positive corporate culture.

Today, corporate culture is often mistaken for a company’s brand image or “a company that has a lot of perks”, but there is more to culture than how a company markets itself or whether it offers free lunches and hosts pizza parties. In fact, building a good corporate culture has more to do with cultivating a sense of trust and goodwill into the very fabric of your company so that employees feel recognized, listened to, and engaged when they’re at work.

Companies that get corporate culture right have employees that evangelize on their behalf. Enjoying a reputation for having a good corporate culture is a big boost for companies when they are recruiting high achieving salespeople – and sometimes a good reputation even helps a firm spend less money on salaries and retain the best employees for the long-term.

Sales Rep Turnover is around 25.5%” – CSO Insights

How important is corporate culture to sales hiring?

A recent study conducted by Glassdoor, an online career community, surveyed more than 5,000 of its members on a number of factors that influence how they make career decisions. The study found that corporate culture is among the top five biggest considerations job seekers take into account before accepting a job offer.

The study reveals that people care about where they work and the kind of work they do. It also shows that potential employees are vetting companies carefully to make sure the job they get delivers a good work-life balance.

In sales, the structure of compensation packages is an important matter for potential hires. According to the Glassdoor study, fully 94% of sales professionals surveyed reported that the base salary is the most important element of their compensation plans, while only 62% felt commission rates are the most important aspect of their compensation plan.

Sales professionals are also motivated by what they sell. 78% of those surveyed said they would accept less money to work at a company selling something compelling.

Firms that work hard to entice the best talent develop competitive compensation packages and look for salespeople who show a passion for what the firm has to sell. These two simple strategies can help usher the best talent into the workplace, sometimes at a lower cost.

When it comes to retaining employees, corporate culture continues to play an important role. In the study, 84% of employees said they would consider moving to another employer whose culture and values more closely aligned with theirs. This is an astonishingly high number and speaks to not only the value of cultivating a great corporate culture, but also how hard it is to get culture right.

How can you get the word out about your corporate culture?

Word of mouth is extremely powerful so employees and ex-employees are the front line for a company’s reputation. They share their experiences about your company casually at parties or in lunch conversations, and on social sites such as Glassdoor or LinkedIn. They can also be critically honest when a friend or colleague interested in making a move calls them to ask about what it’s like to work at their company.

An employer’s first line of defence is finding out what their employees really feel — and say — about its corporate culture.  Anonymous surveys are an excellent medium that employers can leverage to get very honest answers about their employees perceptions about the corporate culture in which they work. Hiring Managers, working with HR, can also see what current and past employees are saying on Glassdoor, one of the most popular online employer review sites, or use social listening tools like Google Alerts or to keep an ear on what people say.

For additional information on how to ensure your online reputation is up-to-date, read our article, Does your Company’s Online Reputation Matter when Sales Recruiting? which quotes Cameron Herold, founder and COO of BackPocket, as saying, “In this day and age, companies that don’t have an exceptional online presence are simply not going to attract A-level talent.”

Of course getting culture right is much more than simply having a great website. It takes genuine commitment by a company’s leaders as well as a lot of time and effort to build a culture of winning that in turn, fosters success.

Sales departments that are serious about attracting the best talent enhance their corporate culture by committing to excellence and offering employees continual training. For sales managers, the benefit of continual training is threefold: First, training sales people in a consistent, customized, measurable way that focuses on behaviors and follow-up activities lets your sales team know that you’re invested in their professional success. Second, it benefits your firm’s competitive advantage as a result of heightened seller effectiveness. Lastly, having a training plan in place can turn employees into brand ambassadors, amplifying your recruitment efforts year-round. Moreover, it gives management more leverage in holding the team accountable for achieving increasingly higher results.

How can you change your culture?

If you find you’ve got a bad reputation in the marketplace, it’s not too late to change.

A recent article on the Sales Benchmark Index blog notes that high turnover in the sales department is a key indicator that something’s wrong with the firm’s sales culture. The article suggests creating a common vision for the sales team as a first step toward gearing up a better corporate reputation. The article also provides a series of questions to ask in order to start the conversation with your team and get buy-in from them on the path to developing a more positive work climate.

The article also suggests that as employers undergo a culture shift, leadership must be transparent about the pros and cons of working for the organization when talking with candidates. This gives candidates a better opportunity to evaluate their own ability to fit in with the selling culture, and gives hiring managers a better understanding of the candidate’s likelihood of success.

An article in Fast Company by Beth O’Neill, How to Shape your Company Culture before It’s Too Late is a helpful reminder for companies that want to update their culture. O’Neill suggests that organizational leaders need to be clear on their mission, vision, and values. She also suggests fixing the following three key aspects of everyday work life to help employees feel better about their workplace, and by proxy update the perception outsiders have about it.

The first change according to O’Neil, provide structure for how meetings are run since “meetings are the microcosm of the organization’s culture.” Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton, who was ousted early this year, blamed part of the problem with innovation at Mattel on a bad meeting culture. A recent story on NPR’s Morning Edition by Yuki Noguchi gives a great deal of detail on how meeting culture can slowly erode a corporate culture.

O’Neill recommends fostering the development of a good meeting structure that can be adopted by the whole company. According to O’Neill, meeting managers should formalize the process of the desired outcome of each meeting by making sure there is a meeting agenda, everyone invited has a role to play, and there is a record of what was agreed on in the meeting. This is one of the key ways to begin fostering a better corporate culture.

Next, O’Neill suggests creating a clear decision making processes so that employees can focus on making decisions efficiently and in a structured manner. Finally, O’Neill advises that the company define what success will look like, particularly for process and relationships. This gives employees a vision to follow and shows them what their being measured by.

Sales departments and corporations are gearing up to welcome the next generation into more senior roles, and as Millennials climb the corporate ladder, they’re bringing their ideals with them.  Work culture is one of the top three qualities that matter most to the next generation when examining prospective employers. In fact, nearly 80 percent of Millennials look for people and culture fit with employers, even before they consider the career potential a company might offer them. Companies that begin a culture shift now will be poised to attract the best talent on the current market, and in the future.

In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value” – Louis Gerstner



Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.

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