Every sales function wants to smash its revenue targets.
Yet according to Salesforce, just 24% of sales teams are “high performers” that have significantly increased revenue year-on-year. Of the rest, 69% are “moderate performers” – those that have maintained or somewhat increased revenue – and 7% are underperforming.
Want to move from those bottom two brackets into the top tier? It’s time to instill a winning sales culture in your organization.
The phrase “winning sales culture” isn’t a throwaway term. Sales functions with successful cultures enjoy a range of specific benefits, such as:
An increasing number of companies and individual teams are aware that culture is intrinsically linked to performance.
However, when it comes to building a high-performing sales team, many organizations fall down at the first hurdle – defining their existing culture. After all, if you don’t understand and explain the culture of your sales function, how can you figure out what needs changing?
The good news is that your sales culture definition isn’t an exhaustive manifesto detailing your process, goals, and vision. Instead, it can simply be a single sentence, or even just a bullet-point list of words that underpin your values.
To define your culture, start by answering the following questions.
Whether or not you have actively defined it or taken steps to improve it, you already have some sort of sales culture.
It could be supportive, competitive, and rewarding. It could be negative, critical, and selfish. Or it could be somewhere in between.
Either way, it’s your job as a sales leader to understand that culture and build on it to help your organization achieve its growth goals. With that in mind, here are eight steps you can take to build a winning sales culture:
Setting measurable goals and communicating them clearly is one of the keys to instilling a positive sales culture because it lets your reps understand specifically what you expect of them. Those goals and expectations should govern everything from the revenue targets you are aiming for to the daily activity levels you want to see.
Without clear direction, it is easy for sales functions to take their eye off the ball, which inevitably means you fall short of your objectives.
Importantly, the goals you set should be challenging but also achievable. Without either of those elements, your targets can quickly become demotivating and damaging to your sales culture.
In a high-performing sales culture, everyone pulls in the same direction – from the front-line reps to the VP of Sales – because they share the same vision.
You can only achieve a common vision once you’ve set and communicated your goals. It’s all well and good to state that your vision is to become the market leader in your field, but without specific actions and targets attached, it is largely meaningless.
When agreeing on the vision of your sales function, it is essential to get buy-in from everyone on the team. That way, each call your reps make and every email they send can be tied into your overarching goals.
Positive, high-performing sales cultures rarely exist in an authoritarian, top-down sales environment. For reps to feel bought into your vision and motivated to hit their targets, they need to feel that they are trusted and valued members of the team.
One of the best ways to achieve this is to encourage feedback and take action on it. When you implement a new process, roll out a new sales script, or run a new training program, find out what people think.
To ensure feedback is valuable and not just an opportunity to vent and complain, ask for specific recommendations on actions. For instance, if reps are dissatisfied with the current level of communication from leadership level, they could suggest a new briefing format or a recurring meeting to discuss changes.
While agile working originally came from the world of software development, it can be equally relevant – and beneficial – to the modern-day sales function.
In a sales context, agility means embracing a culture of continuous learning and development. Identify potential new tactics, channels, and methodology, test it out, and use the results to improve your sales process.
In a high-performing sales function, no one should have anything to hide, because the team is built on accountability. Each member of the team should feel ready to celebrate their wins and learn from their mistakes, without fearing undue criticism, which means there is total transparency at all levels.
By its very nature, sales is a competitive environment. In negative sales cultures, this can promote an “every rep for themselves” mentality. But in a high-performing culture it becomes a huge positive.
Encourage healthy competition by creating contests and running incentives that reward reps for displaying behaviors that align with your desired sales culture. However, make sure there isn’t too much to play for. You want the team to congratulate the winner, not resent them.
Teams usually congratulate salespeople for closing deals. Obviously, this is an important part of the sales process – but it’s not the be all and end all.
Multiple actions across numerous steps must be taken before a prospect signs on the bottom line, so you should actively applaud all instances of excellent work, even if they do not immediately result in new business.
For instance, you might highlight and reward a rep for going the extra mile to retain an existing customer, or for embodying the values of your sales function.
All too often, reps only receive sales training when they first start in a new role.
This approach suggests you are not invested in the continuous improvement of your sales team. This in turn indicates you do not value your reps as long-term assets.
Furthermore, it means you’re not equipping your reps to cope with any number of internal and external factors that may have a significant impact on their ability to sell. The launch of a new product or the arrival of a new competitor in your industry may force them to adopt radically different strategies, so it’s in your interest to help them overcome these challenges.
Building a winning sales culture does not happen overnight.
If your culture isn’t where you want it to be, you cannot expect to roll out a new feedback process or training program and expect things to immediately improve.
But if you invest time and effort in your sales culture, it will naturally become stronger and more positive – and the rewards make it all worthwhile.