Building a strong sales culture is one of the first steps to building a strong sales team.
What do your salespeople talk about when they aren’t actively selling? If they aren’t walking around talking about what to sell next, how to grow the business, or how to improve their closing rate, you don’t have a sales culture.
At its heart, culture is the informal communication of the workplace. The formal communication is the memos, minutes, emails and all that other stuff that is driven by the company. Culture is what we’re talking about when we’re walking down the hall, and the goal is to create an environment that encourages an open dialogue about life in sales.
You need three pieces to build the kind of sales culture that will benefit your business:
You have to put an infrastructure in place to keep people moving in the right direction. That means you are consistently setting goals, holding people accountable, measuring and tracking progress, and taking steps to help salespeople achieve their goals. You want everyone talking about better ways to sell, how to tweak the process, what’s working and what’s failing. You need the metrics to be visible so that people are talking about where they stand and what they have to do to be better.
"The key is to not only build the birdcage for the right culture to hatch, but also to allow it to flourish"
Is everyone on your team following the same process? If they aren’t, they really don’t have much to talk about. The sales process is owned by the company, not the individual. It is the path that the buyer and seller follow. How they individually navigate the process is about their own personal style. In a good sales culture, sellers will talk through what they say at different points, how they say it, and what prospects say.
Sports teams build a culture around their particular sport—baseball and basketball have vastly different cultures—but skills development plays a big role, too. While athletes are being measured and critiqued, they’re also being coached to improve their skills and hone their craft. The same thing goes for a sales team. The key is to not only build the birdcage for the right culture to hatch, but also to allow it to flourish. If you are a manager and you constantly “rescue” your salespeople when it comes time to close deals, you aren’t allowing them to develop their skills. If you have a manager who is a totally ineffective coach, your culture is one in which the chatter as people walk down the hall is about how the manager isn’t teaching them anything.
The first step a sales manager should take before trying to address any of the three pieces of the sales culture puzzle is to review the current culture.
What is the informal culture today?
Where is the focus of the people who should be selling?
Is there a consistent process and is everyone following it?
How effective are your sales managers at coaching the team?
Once you’ve evaluated the current culture, determine how you can start shifting the focus from where you are to where you need to be. Figure out a baseline, compare this to where you want to go, and then decide what changes need to be made to get there.
No matter what, understand and accept how communication works and how to use it as a manager. Don’t kill the rumor mill; change the slant of the conversation by working on the three pieces. Do the right thing, and the sales culture will happen.
Brian Kavicky is Vice President/Owner at Lushin, Inc. He has spent his entire career in sales, sales management and operations management in high growth companies. Working with Presidents, CEO's, Entrepreneurs and their sales teams, Brian helps them strategically achieve sustainable growth through challenging their current beliefs and behaviors. To contact Brian, send him an email.