7 Expert Steps To Building A Successful Sales Culture

It happened twice that week. I received calls from two very different organizations (one providing surgical devices to hospitals and the other offering IT solutions to SMEs) looking for help building a sales culture. My response was very much the same, “You already have a sales culture.” After a short pause on the telephone, I continued, “It’s either a good one or a bad one!”

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What is sales culture?

Culture is defined as the attitudes and behaviour characteristics of a particular group. So your organization already has a sales culture. The question is, how effective is it at helping your team adopt desired selling behaviours and reach their maximum sales potential?

How to build a successful sales culture

In my work with MNCs with sales teams throughout Asia-Pacific, I’ve noticed some best practices for building high-performance sales cultures. By incorporating these 4 important steps, your organization can experience the benefits too:

1. Determine a common vision

You start by defining “sales culture.” 

However, that usually means different things to different people. That’s why I start facilitation sessions with stakeholders by asking, “What would the “perfect” sales culture look like? What would be happening? What would you notice? What would other people notice? How will you know when you’ve got the “perfect” sales culture?”

Ultimately though, you’ll have all sorts of definitions. For instance:

  • One person might say, “the back office and front office staff would work more closely together.” 
  • Another could say, “sales reps would be more confident, optimistic and persistent.”
  • Someone else might say “they would be excited and passionate about selling.”
  • Another might say, “customers would notice how driven, enthusiastic and responsive our reps are!”

Everyone has different ideas about the definition of a successful sales culture – so to determine a common vision, you must first gather everyone’s thoughts and use them to agree on a shared vision of what you want to achieve as an organization.

2. Top management commitment

Having the commitment of top management will significantly increase the likelihood of buy-in and implementation throughout the organization. This cannot be driven by Human Resources or Learning and Development alone.

With a recent client, I worked directly with the Regional Director and his senior team (Business Development Director, Country Director and Human Resource Director) to understand their definition of the “perfect” sales culture.

We then had a context-setting conference call, followed by a 2-day strategic session with all Country Directors and Division Managers to come up with a common definition of “sales culture” and get their input on how we could achieve it. With transparency across all levels, this program can now be rolled out to the sales teams.

3. Dedicate the resources to build a sales culture

Building the “perfect” sales culture takes time and resources. It takes more than sending your team for sales training once a year. How will it be successful if your team returns to an environment that doesn’t support what they’ve learned? Their day-to-day environment must support their learning so that their new behaviours become habits. These new behaviours must become habits in order for sales to improve. Despite that, what do most leaders do when sales don’t improve after training? Send the team for more training! So what can you do to ensure your team consistently adopts desired selling behaviours?

Be willing to invest in coaching (internal and external), on-the-job mentoring, additional training, train-the-trainer, motivational talks, team meetings, online sales training, webinars, mobile templates, sales tip cards, etc. If you don’t have the budget now, start planning to ensure you’ll have the financial resources you’ll need in the next FY to support this program.

4. Incorporate appropriate metrics

The purpose of having metrics is to have clarity on the effectiveness of building your “perfect” sales culture. What would be the first small signs that it’s working? How will you know? The best way to do that is to incorporate quantitative and qualitative criteria.

Quantitative criteria include sales volume in dollars or units, growth over previous years, new accounts, and profitability. Qualitative criteria includes: attitude, product knowledge, communication skills, personal appearance, customer feedback, selling skills, and personal initiative. When assessing the performance of your sales team, be sure to differentiate between aptitude and attitude. When in doubt, train a poor aptitude and fire a bad attitude.

When I’m speaking with Directors and Sales Managers within SMEs and MNCs, I remind them that “walking the talk” will greatly increase the likelihood of buy-in and implementation throughout the organization. I’ve also noticed that at times, this “perfect” sales culture already happens for them, at least a little bit. I’m always curious about what they did to make that happen. Ask yourself, what’s already going well? What is the next small step you could take? What would it take to get you closer to building the “perfect” sales culture?

5. Encourage a ‘fail fast’ mentality

Salespeople, by nature, should be able to effectively take risks, from testing a new prospecting channel or altering their stance in a negotiation. While trying out new options may result in many failures – it makes sense to use the results to help everybody as a team learn and improve their sales activities. However, encouraging this mentality also means reminding sales reps to document their results – otherwise, it’s simply a waste of time.

6. Master a sales training process

After training tens of thousands of sales professionals worldwide in the past few decades, I can safely say a robust sales training process is a critical component of a successful sales team – and culture. One problem that sales teams frequently encounter is how to incorporate new team members into the existing group. By implementing a sales training process, new team members can begin learning everything from essential to advanced sales strategies right away – and bonding with their coworkers simultaneously. That’s why having all team members trained on the same topics allows for consistency in the company’s sales culture.

7. Coach to increase accountability

Ensuring your sales team is accountable is crucial for a healthy sales culture because if the sales team’s performance drops, their quotas will start feeling like a suggestion – not a necessity. Which I’m sure will set the tone for the entire operation so, to achieve high levels of accountability, you should implement solution-focused coaching techniques. They focus on what clients want to achieve rather than on the problems that made them seek help. Consequently, coaching helps your team members focus on what they want to accomplish in sales rather than on the issues they’re having. The result? A focused and motivated sales culture that’s passionate about their customers and their results.

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If you need help building a sales culture in your organisation, drop us a message to find out how we can help.

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