An organization’s “sales culture” is its way of thinking and behaving. A healthy sales culture begins with sales leadership communicating what results and behaviors are expected. These expectations are reinforced through ongoing sales coaching.
The best sales cultures have a common sales language and common processes that are used by everyone who comes into contact with customers. Everyone can engage the customer in a conversation that enables them to identify the customer’s needs, recommend solutions, and gain commitments. When this communication process is consistently completed, sales goals are achieved, customers become genuinely loyal, and an unbeatable sales culture is developed.
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A positive sales culture can make or break your organization. According to a Columbia University study, organizations with positive sales culture experience less than 14 percent job turnover. On the other hand, organizations that struggle with a poor sales culture average 48.4 percent when it comes to employee job turnover.
At its finest, a positive sales culture can bring the top talent to your company. They feel engaged and comfortable in the workplace. All of this has a direct impact on your revenue, coupled with more deal closings. So what does sales culture refer to, and how does it affect your organization?
What Does Sales Culture Refer To?
Your organization’s sales culture is defined by the behavior of your sales representatives. It signifies their attitude for a particular time and place. When sales are slow, fingers are pointed to the sales culture at first.
What Is a Toxic Sales Culture?
A toxic sales culture is made from making bad decisions. When you hire or persist with the wrong person for the job (i.e. surrounding your team with the bad fit), it is detrimental to your sales culture. In addition, incentivizing wrong behaviors is also a recipe for disaster. So, how to identify the wrong person? Here are two signs:
Capable But Unwilling
These reps have all the right skills in their toolset. Unfortunately, they fall behind due to a problematic attitude. Exhibiting traits like selfishness and arrogance, they can put your sales culture in dire straits. Sometimes, sales managers overlook these traits because these reps produce good results. However, all of it goes down the drain because of the negative impact it inflicts on the sales culture.
Unwilling and Incapable
With neither the right skills nor the right skills, these members add zero value to your team. The longer these individuals stay in your company, the more it lowers the morale of the company.
Next, understand what constitutes as wrong behavior. Here is how it appears:
The ABC Approach
If your compensation structure is designed such that it only incentivizes the money your salespeople bring in, they can be tempted to indulge in lying while talking to the prospects and communicate with the wrong types of leads. Enabling this behavior harms your brand’s reputation.
The 9-5 Routine
If the base salary remains the same in your sales department, regardless of the deal your reps close, it will promote a lazy culture where one feels comfortable with the bare minimum. Everyone will look forward to finishing the 9-5 shifts and work less. At the same time, the hardworking and more talented reps will feel dissatisfied and look for other jobs.
Who Needs to Promote Sales Culture?
Sales culture is not limited to your sales team. The onus to promote sales culture is on everyone in the organization. It must begin from the top of the hierarchy. Those who call the shots—founders, CEOs, executives, and managers—must embody the essence of the sales culture. This can convey to the new and existing members on what is expected from them.
Think of it like this: you are a senior sales professional who is training new hires on how to maintain a certain level of work ethic and commitment to clients. But, one of the executives does not appear to embody this culture. In this way, it can be harder to motivate the newer, younger employees.
Best Practices for Creating a Positive Sales Culture
You can create a positive sales culture by following these practices.
1. Encourage Positive Competition
Salespeople tend to be more competitive due to the underlying structure of their processes. Make sure that the competition remains healthy. Negative competition can lead your reps to:
- Hide important information from each other.
- Engage in hostile communication.
- Steal opportunities.
It’s a slippery slope. So, how to balance competition so that every individual aims for better results while they continue to help and respect each other?
Add an External Rival
Provide details of an external rival to your team. External here can have several meanings. For example, it can be another sales team of your organization that works at a separate branch. Similarly, a rival can be one of your competitors. Make a visit to the analytics team and check out the numbers. Pick a competitor that has ramped up their sales game. Talk to your team and spur them to outpace their rivals. A common enemy can motivate them to work closely. Since the collective output is integral in outperforming the rival, there will be no hard feelings.
Direct the Energy to Their Own Performance
Raise the spirits of your team. Cheer them to surpass their own records. Other than looking for ways to kill off their competitive energy, utilize it to so they can score better than they did in the last quarter. By shifting their focus to their own selves, you can reduce their resentment towards colleagues.
Create Effective Pairs
Pairing two reps with similar experiences can create issues. Pair the experienced ones with the fresh hires. Firstly, it will make both of them feel secure about their positions. Secondly, it builds a mentor-mentee relationship that can boost their respective personal growth and eliminate feelings of isolation.
Arrange Sales Contests
Organize sales contests and introduce incentives. Avoid running the same type of contest. Or else, same reps will win every time and attract animosity and jealousy from their counterparts. Each contest should be structured such that it can resonate with each of your team members. When everyone has an equal chance to win the contest, it will keep them engaged and work harder.
2. Promote Trust and Communication
Trust is important in the workplace; reps thrive more in such an environment. It is the responsibility of the sales manager to lay the foundation of this environment. If you are a sales manager, you can:
Accept and Incorporate Feed
A good sales manager is confident in their abilities, but they are always open to suggestions from anyone in the team. They pay attention to the common pain points. They listen and evaluate the following:
- Are reps learning something of value from the training?
- Is the training format viable?
- Is it a good idea to expand transparency between the sales team and higher management?
- Will less interference in the workflow improve performance?
It does not matter if you cannot follow through with each suggestion. Showing effort is good enough; it will build trust, creating a positive sales culture.
Micromanaging Will Backfire
Put simply, micromanaging your staff will make them feel uneasy and reduce their ability to work efficiently. Trust is built over time when you instill confidence in your team. Have a firm belief in their abilities to deliver the desired results. Don’t think about micromanaging, unless you feel that a specific rep is underperforming who can improve after some encouragement and feedback. Place a higher priority on results. Enable reps to have dynamic and flexible work routines—one where they feel more successful, rather than having them sit needlessly in the office and complete reports that sometimes don’t add any value to the organization.
Remain True to Your Word
Reliability is the core component of trust. If you commit to someone, you must follow through with a sincere effort. When reps find their sales managers to be dependable—someone they can count on—they tend to become more loyal.
It is likely that you keep your word to the more important promises, but keeping up with the smaller ones, is also necessary. For instance, saying, “I’ll send some resources in the morning” to your rep has to be followed with timely action. Consistently keeping your end of the bargain can make you trustworthy in the eyes of your team in no time.
3. Assemble a High-Performing Team
After laying the cornerstone of a sales-friendly environment successfully, shift focus on those who sell. Now that they are selling in a conductive environment, you reserve the right to demand better performance.
At first, you require a great sales manager. There are many ways to define a great sales manager, but in summary it refers to a leader who works tirelessly daily and enhances and fortifies the capabilities of people working under them. They have to be a good forecaster, reporter, administrator, and most importantly: an effective coach who can develop people and extract the best out of them. They must have the resources to fill up the team with crème de la crème and work on their raw talent to produce terrific results. As a rule of thumb, they should understand and act according to this equation.
For this purpose, the sales manager must have access to performance metrics that can evaluate both the quality and quantity of sales activities. This can facilitate them in making reps accountable for those outcomes. Giving verbal feedback and coaching their team is essential, but they can make the following important decisions as well.
- Reward the top performers with incentives and promotions and coach them to become better.
- Coach the struggling reps. Replace them if needed.
Adherence to this performance-based strategy can skyrocket your sales performance in no time. Your team members have to be the best fit for your sales culture. They should be competent enough to win new clients, develop the current business, and retain clients.
Furthermore, your salespeople should be adept at building powerful and long-lasting relationships, both inside and outside your organization.
4. Provide Continuous Learning
One aspect that makes an average sales team a great one is the evolution of their skill-sets. Top talent needs constant nurturing. Empower your sales representatives to shape their skills with modern sales techniques. If there is no difference in their capabilities in the last 12 months, this sort of stagnancy is going to affect both their career trajectory and outcomes.
Education can play a major role in the workplace. Roll out an ongoing learning framework that can offer continuous coaching and training to your reps. Hold weekly sessions, so your members develop skills and take their sales game to the next level. Many professionals have an affinity for growth opportunities. In fact, this is the reason that some employees leave jobs despite having a good package. Leverage a positive sales culture to appeal to those demographics.
5. Offer Recognition
Incentivizing your employees is not enough to raise their morale. Celebration is an integral cog of any sales culture. It must not come from the sales manager alone, but from the complete hierarchy. You can reserve the following moments for recognition.
- A new sales rep succeeds in scheduling a meeting or closes a deal.
- A rep manages to schedule three meetings in one day.
- A rep makes a tough client sign with the organization.
The “thank-you” and “shout-outs” culture is formalized in many organizations. Team members are empowered to pinpoint the moment where their colleagues performed exceptionally well, especially under pressure. In addition, allocate time for peer-to-peer recognition.
Recognition works, in particular, when your leadership is involved. In the event, your management is composed of different layers. Make the most out of recognition by distributing efforts throughout the hierarchy. When employees continue to receive excessive praise from the same individuals, it can quickly lose its effect.
There are several benefits to aligning your organization around a positive sales culture. Companies with a positive sales culture are more likely to generate excellence across all their departments. Happy employees are more effective, and a positive sales culture ensures that an organization cannot remain mediocre in other departments.
Building a positive sales culture takes time and resources. Starting from the top, it requires efforts from all members of the organization. It will also need a clear understanding of what makes your rep unique and what are the best practices for a positive sales culture.
- Anthony. (n.d.). Great Sales Culture Pays High Returns. Retrieved from
- Efti, S. (2020, February 20). Toxic sales culture? Here’s what happened and what to do about it. Retrieved from https://blog.close.com/toxic-sales-culture-heres-what-happened-and-what-to-do-about-it/
- Frost, A. (n.d.). Sales Culture: The Ultimate Guide. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/sales-culture