Attaining the right culture has become a kind of philosopher’s stone for companies looking to gain an edge and recruit the best talent. It’s no different when building a sales team. An interviewee may very well ask about company culture to determine whether the interviewing corporation is a good fit. Companies may spend significant time and money finding an identity and defining their culture to position their company as an ideal place to work and do business with.
But I have some sobering news for sales team leaders: Culture means nothing if you’re not focusing on what really matters — sales.
I firmly believe in company values, employee benefits and gatherings to build unity. But when creating a winning culture in the sales department, these sorts of culture-building initiatives fall short unless people feel progress and some sort of success in their sales roles. Way too often, companies start fixing a broken culture in sales by changing some policies, introducing new perks or organizing meetups. What they should do before all of that is work hands-on with the sales team to identify how people can be successful in their current roles. Make sure you’re bringing in the right people, those who are passionate about sales and align with your company’s values. Plus, leadership needs to do everything in its power to help the sales team succeed and meet their goals. Most people are passionate about what they do so long as they understand the importance of their role and feel like they are constantly making progress.
Here are three practical solutions for creating a winning sales team – and, in turn, a winning culture.
- Understand what it takes to make a sale
Over the last two decades, sales has becoming increasingly more data- and process-driven. Luck plays a small role in the overall path of a sales lead. There are numerous touchpoints and paths mapped out along the sales funnel and the modern salesperson is not just outgoing and persuasive — she is highly analytical. It is imperative that your organization has a truly buttoned up process for how you conduct sales from start to finish and that the process is well documented and disseminated across your sales team.
To understand what it takes to make a sale in your organization, whether you’re selling a $10 a month software subscription or $10 million equipment, your executives need to have a grasp of your sales process. Ideally, people at the top of the chain of command should have some experience on the sales floor. One benefit to bootstrapping much of your initial growth — rather than relying too much on outside funding — is that your sales team is forced to create processes that move the needle and drive company growth.
Ultimately, if executives can’t sell, it is going to be very difficult for junior salespeople to succeed. Founders and executives should be comfortable jumping in during any step of the sales journey, from prospecting to handling objections to closing and everything in between.
- Build a systematic process and help people get there through training, tools and incentives
It’s one thing to have the experience and understanding of what it takes to make a sale within your organization. The next step is to ensure there is the kind of training and tools in place to ensure your team lives and breathes your particular sales process.
If you don’t already have one, I highly recommend you create a sales playbook and build a systematic process for how your organization does sales. Winning teams establish winning routines, habits and behaviors. Sales is very much about following the right routines and building habits that increase your likelihood of closing deals with ideal customers. Playbooks help you cultivate the right behaviors. But, it is equally important to know when you need to jump in and be a coach.
Moreover, modern salespeople expect modern sales tools to help them maximize their time and increase efficiency. Using modern sales technology to automate sales prospecting and conduct sales call analysis, along with creating email templates and a smooth deal creation process will help your team as they progress.
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And as your team pushes toward sales goals set, be sure you have incentives in place for them. Modern salespeople want to see the fruits of their labor, so incentives play a key role. These could range from monetary bonuses for reaching goals, extra vacation days to reward top talent or unique learning experiences that help them grow professionally.
- Provide feedback and rewards regularly
Taking a figurative microscope to the sales process, there are hundreds of details involved and no one is going to be an expert from Day 1. In order to be good at anything, you need constant feedback on how to improve. This is especially true in sales.
Be sure that you are coaching team members as needed, helping them in critical situations like demos and negotiations with prospects so that they have a better chance of succeeding in the situation. And yet, it is very important that you are ultimately providing them the tools to succeed rather than swooping in to try and save the day or close a prospect they have worked so closely on.
Feedback should be something that is given consistently, both in a formal setting (whether it is a quarterly or bi-annual review) and also ongoing in a less formal, everyday manner. For example, on-the-spot feedback to review a fresh sales call is going to go a long way in helping them become better during the next one.
Sales is the department that is being measured more than most other departments and sales team members typically work very long hours. It’s crucial they get recognition and see rewards when they walk that extra mile and manage to meet or exceed expectations. In short, celebrate victories. When you tie rewards and incentives to meeting and exceeding sales goals, it can spur team members to drive forward and put in additional work to receive the reward set for them. And be clear when expectations are not met: The last thing you want to be is wishy-washy as a sales manager. Just be sure to set realistic goals that move your sales team forward without burning them out or setting them up for failure. Attaching rewards to an unrealistic goal could potentially backfire.
Lastly, measure people based on their potential, attitude and people skills. Focus less on past experiences and employees’ background: Promote people who are good at what they do at your organization and who you feel have the potential to really grow and advance your mission.
Putting it all together: Culture and sales go hand-in-hand
Focusing on selling is going to not only motivate your sales team; it will also have a positive impact across your entire organization. Most employees understand that growth in sales creates opportunities across the system. Revenue is good for all departments.
If you’re leading a team and struggling with company culture, I’d suggest that you stop worrying about culture itself. That may not be what is really at the heart of your concerns. Instead, focus on the basics that will grow your business and invest in your sales team. It is far easier to create a winning company culture when your sales team is meeting their goals day in and day out.
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Author: Mikko Honkanen