We are big believers that creating a winning culture is absolutely essential for any type of success from sports to raising children and it is particularly important in terms of driving superior sales results (see our previous posts: Building a Culture of Success in Your Sales Team and Why Culture Matters in Sales Hiring).
Sales managers have a full plate every day; hiring, training, and driving their sales teams to meet demanding sales numbers. Few managers have the time to think about creating a culture of success. Yet, that is exactly what the best companies do—they work hard to build and communicate a culture that demands, and rewards, sales excellence.
Looking back at some of the books we have enjoyed and business experts we admire, we culled together some key success traits common across the cultures of leading organizations.
Managers should expect and encourage frankness from their sales people. Early in my sales management life, I had one rep who always had strong sales forecasts – that were never realized. We have all employed a”sunshine pump.” You have to challenge your reps. Dig beneath what they are saying, and motivate them to do better. Jack Welch, the legendary former CEO of General Electric, credits developing candor throughout GE as a key reason he was able to change it from a stagnant corporation to a global powerhouse.
Welch would push sales teams to strive for more. If they achieved a 15 percent annual increase, he would applaud them, but then ask if they were exploring every possible avenue to achieve even higher goals. Candor ruffles a few feathers, but is critical to building an action-oriented business culture.
Planning and Strategy
The most successful companies we work with put emphasis on planning and strategy. They are not alone. A while back I read Jeb Blount’s book, “People Follow You,” and in it he says that great sales managers provide consistent systems that allow their people to win. They focus on coaching, mentoring, and providing a structure that gets their account executives in front of customers often. They spend lots of time watching their salespeople and helping them learn, as well as holding them accountable and recognizing their achievement.
Another interesting read, Robert Hogan’s “Personality and the Fate of Organizations”, notes that 75 percent of people at work say their boss is the most stressful part of their work life. Part of the reason for this is management inconsistency. We see this as well when recruiting sales managers and reviewing their performance and management style. Micro-managing when they have time or under managing when they are busy. Providing conflicting guidance and not regularly holding reps accountable or reviewing performance. Great organizations are able to get a lot out of their people because they present a consistent culture. Team members are expected to excel, but always know where they stand.
Modern Sales Process
Creating a consistent culture of sales success is especially important in today’s world of advanced technology. In the past, prospects and clients got most of their information from the salesperson. Today buyers research different options online well before they contact any vendors.
A CEB Marketing survey showed B2B clients across many industries contact a salesperson after they have finished an average of 60 percent of the buying decision. As a result, every person in your company, as well as every piece of marketing, must share a consistent vision so that prospects receive a unified message.
Inspire Your Team
Sales is all about money, right? Well yes in most cases, but actually, creating a culture of success demands that sales managers have a broader foundation. Teach reps how to have meaningful integrity-based relationships with customers, and more than simply reminding reps of the goal to deliver revenues, promote a larger mission such as improving the lives of customers and regularly point to examples where this has happened.
Wait, aren’t good sales leaders hard-headed pragmatists? Who cares about inspiration? The best leaders make sure their people buy into their vision. In his landmark 2010 TED talk, author Simon Senek explains that great leaders inspire with belief. It explains why some leaders inspire while others do not.
Senek says every organization knows what they do, some know how they do it, but very few know why. Most companies and leaders operate from the outside in, with the “why” in the middle. Great leaders do the opposite. They live from the inside out, by starting with the “why.” They are able to create a culture of success because their followers support what the leadership believes, not just what they do.
Recast The Mission
Sales trainer Troy Harrison told American Business magazine that every successful company he has worked with had a strong sales culture. He recommends that organizations forget their original corporate mission statement, and start over by developing a mission with a sales slant that guides every decision made.
Rory Vaden, sales trainer and bestselling author of “Take the Stairs,” agrees. He explained in the American Express Open Forum that one of the keys to creating a top sales culture is being able to share a vision. He believes that great salespeople need an overarching creed, and it is the responsibility of management to create one for them.
High-performance sales cultures are based on candor, consistency, and a deeper mission to improve the lives of employees and customers. Step back from the daily grind, and examine where you can use some of these techniques to improve your own sales culture.
To your success!
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.
Latest posts by Eliot Burdett (see all)
- 20 Of Our Favorite Books About Sales Management and Sales Leadership – October 20, 2023
- How To Make Progress On Your Sales Goal Without A Sales Leader – September 15, 2021
- Augment Your Recruiting Strategy During “The Great Resignation” – July 26, 2021