3 Steps for Building an Effective Sales Culture
The sales culture is the single most important aspect of a selling organisation. Culture drives buy-in, professional development and team dynamics. Culture is the framework on which the organisation rests.
However, the relentless pressure to deliver on more immediate goals like quarterly quotas can obscure the importance of culture. As a result, culture languishes.
Selling organisations occasionally require a culture change. In some cases, this change is necessary because the existing culture is broken. In other cases, the culture lacks shape and intentionality.
There are five common scenarios that necessitate a change to the culture:
- A change in ownership
- A change in leadership
- A merger or acquisition
- A performance problem
- A shift in strategic direction
“87% of directors say inappropriate tone at the top leads to problems with corporate culture. But almost as many [79%] point to the tone set by middle management.”
The study shows that other problems underlying harmful cultures include placing too much attention on short-term results, misguided compensation plans and poor communication. The survey reasserts that internal factors put stress on cultural infrastructure.
The good news is that a healthy culture also stems from internal factors. Therefore, the leadership has control over the culture and can reshape or rebuild it. Doing so means taking three key steps.
Determine the Sales Culture
Leaders should shape their definition of a healthy, productive culture with a two-step process.
- Hold discussions at the executive level. In this first step, the leadership should focus on developing a cultural identity that agrees with their long-term goals. The leaders should reach a consensus before moving forward.
- Survey team members to understand their understanding of what constitutes a supportive culture.
Communicate the Culture
Communication determines if the culture succeeds or fails. Telling people how to follow the culture is not effective for two reasons.
- First, this approach suggests that people will follow a “thou shalt …” style of leadership. No individual or team will adopt a new set of principles and behaviour just because they’re told to do so.
- Second, telling people what to do leaves them unclear on what the culture should look like. Telling offers only a tone but no real message.
Reshaping a culture is a big undertaking. Many will be sceptical that it can work. Seeing a leader take on the challenge of embodying the new cultural norms will prove unequivocally that it is possible.
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Sustain the Culture
Sustaining the culture requires continued effort. In many cases, weak or nonexistent sustainment is the reason a new culture is needed in the first place.
Often, sustainment fails because leaders don’t have a roadmap. While the intended culture may be clearly stated on paper, the plan for sustainment often lacks that same structure. Leaders should consider drafting a sustainment plan in three parts:
- Recognise Success: Leaders must recognise team members who exhibit the intended culture. This is especially true of teams. In a sales culture, there is a lot of focus on the individual and their personal quota. Therefore, highlighting great team performance helps avoid the spectre of “every person for themselves” that can so easily loom over an organisation.
- Measure Outcomes: Measurement must be more than a gut feeling, and it must go further than monitoring turnover. Surveys and open-ended dialogues are great ways to hear the “room tone.” With these responses, leaders can, in time, measure the trend.
- Hire Accordingly: Hiring practises must be congruent with the intended culture. Leaders need to ensure that candidates exhibit the norms underpinning the culture or at least a willingness to adopt those norms.
The average US employee works nearly 2,000 hours per year. Those hours must be spent in an atmosphere that invigorates a sense of belonging.
Download the Brief: Building a Sales Culture to learn more about how to build, communicate and sustain an effective sales culture.
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