Every group of people takes on its own unique philosophy, culture, expectations, norms and values. Sales teams are no different. This is the fundamental power of small group dynamics, and what a wonderful power it is. Unless the culture of that group evolves into something you don’t want. Sometimes the culture that develops will be a strong one, but at other times it can be completely dysfunctional. Your sales culture will be formed with or without your active participation. If you want the culture of your sales organization to be functional and effective you better have a proactive hand in shaping it.
Your team will take on an identity of its own, so you, as business owner or sales manager, need to take a strong role in the group and ask yourself this important question: “What type of culture do I want to instill in my sales team?” Better yet, “Do I want to define the parameters or have them dictated to me?”
Let’s take a look at several scenarios that can play out with or without a sales manager’s participation. Any one of these cultures can become the culture of your sales organization:
- A culture that is cut-throat, overly competitive and even adversarial.
- An environment that is laid back, non-competitive and passive.
- A group that is cooperative, yet competitive and resilient.
- Salespeople who are proud of what they do, how they do it, what they represent and whom they represent.
- Salespeople who are ashamed of sales, what they sell and for whom they sell.
There are literally hundreds of other variations on these themes. The real secret, though, is for you, as a sales executive or sales manager, to determine what you want your selling environment to be like. Here are nine variables for you to consider when establishing your sales culture:
1. What are the standards you use to recruit salespeople?Is your candidate pool too large or too small? Think about ways to tailor your approach in terms of job skills, sales skills and personal skills.
2. Who are the people you select to be on your team?Don’t settle for an average performer just because you need to fill a position. If you can afford to, wait to find someone who is a good fit for your position. Additionally, always keep your eyes open for strong talent, even when you don’t have an opening. Snatch up strong players when you can. Superstar sales talent always pays for itself in the long run.
3. What kind of orientation and training program do you have in place?Don’t leave this critical process up to another department outside of sales. The most successful organizations devote resources and careful planning to training and orientation.
4. What kind of expectations do you place on people, and how do you ensure compliance?Establish expectations early and make it clear that you intend to hold your salespeople accountable.
5. What kind of performance management and review process do you have in place?Looking at the sales numbers at the end of the month isn’t enough. Provide feedback objectively and often.
6. What kind of compensation plan do you have?Depending on your culture, a good pay plan should reward personal performance, loyalty, organizational stability and team productivity.
7. What style of leadership do you use?Do you lead by example, by expertise, by determination, by personal influence, by authority, by fear, etc.?
8. What kind of support team and tools have you put into place?Marketing, sales and service should be integrated. Your sales team should have some kind of marketing and operational support. If you don’t have a support system, establish that expectation up front and demonstrate why salespeople succeed in your organization without it.
9. How do you communicate decisions, updates and ideas to your sales team? Most sales teams are fairly resilient and flexible, or at least they should be. Providing “why to” information is extremely important when introducing new ideas or decisions to salespeople. If you have an autocratic environment make sure you establish that standard early in the orientation process; so that they aren’t surprised and alienated when it occurs later on.
In thinking through these variables answer this question: Do you cultivate your sales culture or does it grow unattended? You are the custodian either way – so why not make a conscious effort to cultivate your sales culture in ways that will be profitable, productive and positive?
It’s easy to sit back and allow things to be dictated to you. However if that is the path you choose, you’ll have to “play the hand you’re dealt.” That could be a good hand or a bad hand.
Great sales managers influence the environment so that they can influence the outcome. Why gamble with your future? Think about the nine variables that help forge a sales culture. Determine your approach, execute your plan, drive the culture you want and you’ll have a team that thrives.