How to Lead a Sales Team with a Winning Sales Culture
Three Steps to Creating a Winning Sales Culture
To successfully lead a sales team, sales leaders must cultivate a culture. When left unchecked, a poor culture can be detrimental to the sales team. Therefore, the sales leader has a responsibility to get intentional about how to lead a sales team. They must take steps to define, shape, and maintain the kind of culture that underpins success.
In this piece, we provide sales leaders with the steps needed to create a winning sales culture.
1. Define the Sales Culture in Clear Terms
Sales culture is what keeps the team together and moving in the same direction. Therefore, it’s no surprise that 82% of survey responders believe that a strong culture is a competitive advantage, according to research from Deloitte.
To seize the power of a strong culture, sales leaders need clear communication with their sales team. To do this, sales leaders need to specifically define the culture they seek. This begins as a collaborative process.
To start, sales leaders should seek input from members of the sales team and peers. This allows the sales team to share their perspectives. In turn, this information widens the leader’s purview and leads to team buy-in later. After gathering information from the team, the sales leader makes the final decisions about the sales culture. Finally, the sales culture should fit into a list of five characteristics that the sales team can communicate in a single statement.
When using this approach, sales leaders create a culture that is not only defined, but that will endure. Additionally, the more specifically the culture is articulated the easier it is to execute.
To make a strong culture, sales leaders must identify the skills that support it. To prevent the culture from drifting, sales leaders need to draft a list of core skills that will form the basis of each seller’s capabilities. This helps the sellers feel more connected to the sales culture as well. This leads to step 2 of how to lead a sales team: uniting the team around accountability.
2. Unite the Team Around Accountability
Sellers adopt a new sales culture when they see that accountability is a priority. To develop salesperson accountability, sales leaders must evaluate performance through a core set of metrics. Each metric must focus on the key events needed to reach a closed deal.
For most selling organizations, those metrics should cover each of the critical parts of selling. This includes prospecting, deal qualification, selling, and negotiation. To keep sellers accountable, sales leaders need to communicate the metrics clearly. The sales team needs to understand where the priorities lie.
It is equally important to communicate that some of these metrics will change. Nearly every sales organization needs to occasionally adjust their priorities. When this happens, sales leaders need to communicate immediately and unambiguously. The sales team also needs to know why the metrics were selected. Without doing so, the metrics appear arbitrary.
Next, sales managers need a way to align sellers to a set of goals. For many sales leaders, the most effective way to do this is to develop them together. This collaboration allows the sales manager to customize the right goals and measurements to the right people. When using an individualized approach, sellers can see how their specific actions affect goals. This gives sellers a greater sense of responsibility and pride in their work. This allows sellers to recognize their individual work, rather than just a reflection of the sales team’s joint effort.
Remember, clarity is key because “the highest levels of performance are associated with the highest levels of goal clarity” according to research published in The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. In addition to clarity, however, sales leaders also need to prioritize time efficiency. The best way to support both is by developing and conducting effective meetings.
3. Simplify the Structure of Team Meetings
Too often meetings are conducted out of habit. As a result, attendees dismiss them as a mere formality. Instead, meetings need to have specific meaning and goal.
When sales managers design meetings with intention, it reinforces the sales culture. Meaningful meetings powerfully influence both sellers and sales to optimize their performance. According to McKinsey, 89% of top-talent employees report being satisfied when leaders are inspirational, supportive, empowering, and focused on development.
The key to an effective meeting is simplicity. The sales leader only has the team’s attention for a limited amount of time. With a simplified structure, they can use that short period to its fullest. For most leaders this means focusing on two key areas: recognition and capability building.
First, during recognition, sales leaders highlight the achievements of individual team members. This makes a seller’s success visible to the team. It also shows the team what kinds of capabilities are important to the sales leader. This also serves as valuable proof of how a certain selling behavior or skill connects to meaningful outcomes.
During the second half of the meeting, sales leaders focus on capability building. Capability building is about advancing an existing skill or introducing a new one. To begin, the manager chooses a skill to highlight. This skill should be applicable to most pursuits to benefit multiple sales team members. Then, the sales manager gives context for the skill by explaining why it matters. It is often helpful for the team to see what the skill looks like in a sales pursuit. For the most clarity, it is best to use examples or even live role play among the participants.
Skill building creates a sense of empowerment in the team. Empowerment reinvigorates the seller’s sense of control over outcomes. By feeling a sense of pride in their responsibilities, sellers reinforce a positive sales culture.
To lead a sales team with a winning sales culture, sales leaders must outline a clear strategy and take intentional steps. First, they must define the sales culture clearly by gathering input from the team and shaping a shared vision. Second, they need to unite the team around accountability, setting measurable metrics and communicating priorities effectively. Lastly, they must simplify team meetings, focusing on recognition and capability building to reinforce a positive sales culture and empower team members. By following these steps, sales leaders can create a successful sales culture that inspires their team to excel.
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