• March 16, 2016

How to Create a High-Performing Sales Culture

How to Create a High-Performing Sales Culture

This post was contributed to VENTUREAPP by Blake Robertson, co-founder of TenFold, a company that helps sales organizations integrate CRM and phone systems to solve sales challenges. 

It’s not planned for – sometimes not even talked about – but sales culture is the fundamental component of a sales organization that can tip the scale between weak and high sales performance.

Build the right culture for your organization and you will effectively build sales success. When it’s not right, however, you will suffer from a sluggish workforce – something that’s severely dangerous to any business.

The number one culprit in a sales organization that needs a culture overhaul? Complacency.

Many businesses and sales leaders are convinced that their sales teams are performing at a level that is adequate. This complacency and illusion kills success. Sales organizations, when content with their current performance, never realize their potential and fall short of delivering on their resources and skills.

But, what is sales culture, really? It’s the combination of values, shared business beliefs, and an environment and framework that a sales organization operates within.

To build a winning sales culture, I believe there are key ingredients and not one should be left behind:

Updated sales practices

Take a quick look at a salesperson’s desk. If it has a landline phone and a big stack of notepads, you’re probably stuck in 1994. Are you limiting your sales force by using practices that are out of date and ineffective in today’s business landscape? Adamant about using practices that worked before but are proving ineffective today?

In this day and age, analytics are plentiful, and it’s not very difficult to determine what works and what doesn’t – even if it’s only the time of day to call or the number of touches a salesperson should make before stashing the lead for callback at a later date.

The best department to implement the agile methodology is sales. If something doesn’t work, your sales force should be guided to quickly adjust and test new practices. An agile and data-driven sales force is in the best position to succeed.

A visible mission statement

Is it cheesy? Maybe. Is it effective? Definitely. When an organization has a unified focus and shared values, employees buy in more. An ambitious and powerful mission statement reminds the sales force that they are part of something greater than their everyday activities. Further, making that statement visible in the work environment is a constant reminder that they are part of a bigger organization with a mission.

Model leaders

There is no such thing as a plug-and-play sales culture. It is built from top to bottom.

The perception a sales force has of their leaders will directly impact the sales culture. If they see C-suite and sales leaders coming in early and putting in extra work, it shows everyone is focused on delivering and creates a high-performing culture.

But your sales force’s perception of leaders’ performance is just as important as actual performance. You don’t want performance to be mostly a game of appearances without looking at the numbers, but it can contribute to a higher morale.

What are some ways to discourage poor performance and recognize excellent performance? Well, are tardy people tolerated? Are leaders hands-on or are always in their office? Are your salespeople participating in performance recognition programs? A winning sales culture can only be built by a company that celebrates & exhibits both hard work and success.

Encouraging feedback and suggestions

Salespeople are extremely involved in the sales process. While sales leaders and managers oversee and analyze the process, your salespeople are in the field and on the phone, doing the grunt work.

To ensure that sales are constantly happening, and smoothly, encourage a sales culture that crowdsources ideas, new practices and suggestions to get leads and close deals. This drives buy-in which will drive high performance.

Sales people will be excited to share practices that truly work – and they will be held accountable for new strategies that could potentially boost sales performance. When salespeople know that leaders put value in their ideas and are listening to their concerns, they are more driven to contribute to help the team succeed. Further, encourage salespeople to be critical of processes and to always be looking for better ways to operate.

Incentives and recognition

Sales is a high pressure field – that’s why motivation is a key driver of performance. Salespeople need to be constantly motivated, disciplined, and energized. Salespeople deal with different situations day in and out, and different things can motivate them.

Simple gestures from sales leaders, like notes or pats on the back are a great start. Monetary incentives and performance bonuses work well for some people but other times it might not be enough. Sales positions have become competitive industry-wide and so that same level of competition should transfer onto the sales floor.

Gamification, the practice of taking gaming mechanics and applying it to businesses, can also drive growth. For instance, an example of gamification could be a leaderboard where salespeople compete on several metrics. Studies show that gamification is being adopted quickly by many sales organizations – and for good reason. They allow you to recognize salespeople’s efforts in a way that doesn’t foster a toxic culture within your company.

Make salespeople better

Professional growth for employees is standard for most companies and so your company should invest in growing your sales force, as well. Salespeople should constantly be educated on updated trends, new technologies and industry news. Taking courses that are not only about sales but even those that are tangential to your vertical should be encouraged and supported. Even encouraging your team to read books that teach new ideas is a good way to break through & permeate learning throughout your sales organization.

Adopting new sales practices and keeping salespeople abreast of them is key in a winning sales culture. Have they had discussions on inbound marketing, consultative selling and why inside sales is now all the rage? If you’re not encouraging excellence by making sure that proper and effective practices & training are in place, it will be much more difficult to have salespeople buy into the culture you are building.

Proactively weed out negative thinking and negative salespeople

Negativity spreads fast and is one of the biggest killers of culture in any business and department, not only in sales. And, negativity breeds dissatisfaction. By actively managing and encouraging your high performers, you should have a good understanding of your team to be able to identify sources of negativity and dissatisfaction.

Negative people are often convinced that they’re not responsible for their poor performance. It’s always the fault of management, the tool, the salary, the schedule, the leads, marketing… it can be a long, long list. It’s been shown that a positive attitude goes a long way in sales and that should be encouraged to make up for areas of your sales force that might lack or be a problem area. Negativity spreads like wildfire and doesn’t only affect the negative person – it will affect the entire team. Nip it in the bud by actively addressing concerns as they come in. Further, you should be constantly & proactively evaluating performance and enforcing constructive coaching throughout.

Manage underperformers

Uneven development is real and it happens in sales. Like leads, new hires and employees must be continuously nurtured, made better and managed. Is the sales force actively encouraged to reach their full potential? Are you pinpointing areas of improvement and enabling reps to work on them?

If a sales team member isn’t exactly performing up to your standards, but you see their potential, don’t give up on them too soon. Very often, a winning team member needs to be trained, coached & developed into a winner.

A winning sales force

As you’ve probably noticed here on our list, the main driver of a productive and successful sales culture is the sales force. Invest in your people to actively build a high performing sales culture in your organization.