The Importance of Sales Culture in Leadership

By December 17, 2019 No Comments
sales culture

Prior to the rapid growth of the virtual sales organization, many of us grew up in the environment of the “sales floor” with all salespeople in close proximity. Typically, everyone could hear each other’s calls. Activity levels, along with sales success and failure, were witnessed by all.

In today’s complex sales environment, most sales organizations have become virtual, with team members that may be in different cities or even countries. This has changed the nature of Sales Leadership. The art of motivating, developing, and coaching has become very different and, in many ways, harder.

The sales industry has experienced a significant decrease in sales performance.

  • More than 70% of salespeople are not making their sales targets.
  • 90% of salespeople do not believe they get effective coaching.
  • Salespeople who miss their sales targets are allowed to try again next year, more so than in the past.

The root of much of this lies in the loss of a vibrant sales culture.

Sales culture is how life feels when selling in your organization. The group’s behaviors, beliefs, values, and camaraderie. Good Sales Leaders reflect on this at least quarterly and purposefully create events, meetings, and activities that build the desired culture. They are responsible for their team’s work environment.

Let’s explore five principles of how to create a healthy, winning sales culture:

1. Shared Vision

As a team, your people need a single-minded vision. Creating, reinforcing, and reminding people of that vision is the responsibility of every Sales Leader. Just as a CEO has to create a corporate vision and get the company to execute to achieve it, a Sales Leader must do the same with their team’s vision.

If you don’t have one, you are not alone. I work with Sales Leaders around the globe every week and most haven’t thought about it. When asked what their team vision is, they often pause and say, “to achieve our sales targets.” It’s hard for salespeople to get emotionally engaged and passionate behind a number. When it is a personal number, too often leaders use the old “carrot and stick” approach, which is not sustainable and doesn’t develop people. It just incents them with the “hope of gain” or “avoidance of pain.“ It doesn’t create successful habits.

The team vision evokes images and feelings of recognition and success, whether it be highest growth region, fastest growing company list, top five highest producing revenue team, etc. Choose something you believe your team can achieve and ensure it is aligned to your overall goal.

When I was involved in the Aviation Industry, we had an underperforming, dysfunctional airport team, including Customer Service, Operations, and Flight/Ramp Crews. The vision was to become the top performing airport in the country for on-time turnaround and aircraft departure. Rather than people drawing demarcation lines of, “that’s not my job,” people started crossing boundaries and helping each other. The results were incredible! Performance was transformed, not only in the two areas we wanted, but in Safety and Customer Service as well.

The vision creates the collective pride and motivation to succeed. You can even collaborate around this with your team to brainstorm, create, and track focused plans.

2. Competitive Spirit

In this increasingly politically correct society (was that politically correct to say?), there is pressure to cover up the hurt when a competitive opportunity is lost. Like any great sports team – it should hurt. The mission is to win. Losing is inevitable but should not be acceptable and ignored. If you don’t do a serious postmortem, how are you ensured the same errors won’t happen again? What corrective actions can you make to ensure you do not lose next time to this competitor or in this situation?

And by the way, any salesperson that says they lost on price, in fact, lost this deal much earlier on a reason other than price. Never accept this as a reason for loss.

Formal loss reviews should be part of your culture – they should be transparent, factual, not defensive, and made into a learning experience for the whole team.

3. Peer Recognition

The other side of this coin is recognition for wins, whether for teams or individuals. Celebrate! Olympic teams do this and celebrate the success of one team member – they have their time on the winner’s podium, celebrated by the broader team. And don’t just recognize top individuals. Recognize the full team, when appropriate.

By recognizing and celebrating team successes, team spirit lifts and the motivation to win becomes a compelling emotional driver for action. This lifts the confidence for salespeople to take more risk in the execution of their opportunities and their desire for winning increases.

4. Consistent, Transparent Coaching

A consistent cadence of one-on-one opportunity coaching is important to building team success. It enables the leader to identify, hone, and leverage best in class sales tactics across the team. The critical elements here are a) the coaching sessions are tightly focused to a planned agenda, and b) there is prescribed pre-work so the salesperson is doing much of the talking… not you. Do not confuse sales coaching with a “inspection” or deal review. A good sales coaching session is where the salesperson feels and believes your only motivation is to help them improve their probability of winning.

5. Quota Accountability

Salespeople need to understand the consequences of consistent underperformance. Quotas or sales targets need to be public and clear. Whatever the rules are for minimum performance, they need to be articulated, communicated, and executed on.

For example, if you achieve less than 60% of your sales target over x period of time, you will be at risk of losing your role. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances, like a CFO has frozen the budget or a new CEO has hired a competitor he worked with before… but those need to also be communicated to the team. There is nothing that demotivates your best performers more than seeing underperformers not be held accountable for letting the team down.

Bottom line… your sales team needs you to lead them. You can change or improve your sales culture! You need to create a shared vision for the next year with your team. Explain that a competitive, winning spirit is the goal and you are committed to reviewing losses to improve as a group. Create room for frequent recognition opportunities. Plan and execute consistent sales coaching in your calendar. Revenue Storm can help you with one-on-one coaching to create your Sales Leadership Plan. Lastly, build sales accountability into your team. The burden of achieving your team goals is on everyone’s shoulders. Working together can achieve much more than what your stars can do on their own.

Use this time of year to reflect and plan to develop a vibrant sales culture that can yield fun, success, and less stress in the next calendar year!

Personal Challenge:

Implement and publish a coaching calendar and set a governance for tool adoption. Stick to the calendar and protect that time fiercely! Use the one-page coaching agendas we provide to help you with your coaching. Visit our shopping cart to buy an hour of personalized coaching. We are here to help you succeed!

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