Creating a Winning Sales Culture
Each sales force has a personality – its culture. The culture could be defined as the genes of the sales organisation. Cultures are defined in terms of appropriate choices the members of the sales team make. All cultures are based on norms and values.
Norms and values are fundamental to the culture because they guide organisational choices and hence affect the sales force activity. A norm describes how an individual should behave when faced with a choice, whereas a value expresses how an individual should aspire or desire to behave when faced with a choice.
What is the cultural statement your sales team is making about their norms and values as expressed in their choices?
Choices can be as follows:
One Choice Alternative Choice
Only call on existing customers Actively prospect for new business
Do what is best for existing customers Do what it takes to make the sale
Sell existing and familiar products Sell new products and services
Telephone customers Meet Customers regularly face to face
There are of course other culture defining choices which shape the sales force. The sales force culture is shaped continuously by the decisions made by the sales management. The recruitment process says something about the kind of people you attract. The training programme says something about the skills, knowledge and attitude the Company deems necessary for achievement. The criteria in the performance management and evaluation systems identify the dimensions that salespeople should regard as important. The reward and recognition programmes define success and how the company recognises accomplishments.
How to Change a Sales Culture
Cultural change is hard work and a poor culture can become a liability for a sales team. Inappropriate sales cultures need to be changed. People are the change agents – they are the only ones who can change cultures. It takes a strong individual to initiate the change and needs be someone at the top of the organisation. Most companies bring in an outsider to set the change in motion. Outsiders bring a new perspective; they can make objective choices because the current culture is not ingrained in them.
A cultural change process has four components:
Vision – Communication – Action – Rewards.
The Company must develop a vision of how the norms, values and work style needs to change so that sales team behaviours are aligned with requirements of the company’s product line, selling environment and business model. A vision identifies what the company wants to achieve. It directs the renewal process. The ideal culture is a statement of the values, norms and work styles that are most appropriate for the sales organisation.
Once the vision of the ideal culture has been defined it is compared to the current culture. Current culture can be defined by feedback surveys to elicit opinions from the sales team on what they deem to the current norms, values, work styles and behaviours in the company.
Whilst managers may have their own beliefs about what the current culture looks like they are often surprised by norms, values, work styles and behaviours assumed by the sales team.
What we need to define is the gap between the ideal and current culture. Once the gap is defined, we can make a decision on what is implement to achieve the ideal culture. Very often is found that trust and confidence needs to be rebuilt and gain Commitment from the sales team.
Accountability – people need to be held accountable for results. Individuals need resources to generate their results. Predictability – people are expected to delver on their commitments. Everyone needs to be counted on.
The culture change needs to be communicated through initially public statements from senior management. Communication on the new ideal culture and an understanding of the norms, values, behaviours and work styles expected from the sales force with a commitment to be that change. Training modules to deliver the necessary skills, behaviours and work styles to empower the sales team to make the changes necessary. Sales teams’ leaders need to communicate the change of culture through mentoring and coaching.
Any change in culture must be communicated quickly and forcefully. The communication can be in the forms of sports metaphors, military metaphors etc. The communication needs to be so strong that will get the sales team talking to each other and management on the cultural change.
Actions are the most powerful communications medium. Managers need to “walk” the “talk.” Words and actions need to be consistent.
Consistent and forceful words and actions are required to bring about a cultural change. The change process is likely to start with new role definitions for all levels within the
sales organisation. Some people may not be happy to adapt to the new vision. They like the current culture and are comfortable with it – they simply do not want to change.
Some people cannot or will not adapt to the new norms, values and work styles. Unfortunately, the company will need to outplace these people.
Success metrics must reflect new norms, values and work styles of the new culture. This forms the basis for a revised performance management system, a revised reward, recognition and compensation system.
Benchmarks need to be clearly defined to show the sales team when they are on track. Winning situations need to be defined and the sales team need to go for quick and long-term wins. Every quick win needs to be recognised and celebrated.
Actions include new role definitions, a new hiring profile, a new training programme, a new compensation programme and successful sales meetings. An air of urgency must be created with aggressive deadlines for achievement.
Money, recognition and status are powerful communicators. Behaviours that are rewarded visibly are viewed as successful. Shared success then becomes the foundation of success for the ideal culture.
A sales team culture is formed by the connection by the sales team history, its environment and its people. The culture shapes its people at the same time as the people shape the culture.
Only people can maintain a strong culture or change a weak culture.