compass pointing to purpose

Sales organizations that are not only meeting but surpassing their annual goals and realizing sales success are relentlessly focused on two core principles: purpose and values.

Every sales leader is looking for that magic formula for sales success — the one that will lead to higher conversion rates, increased revenues and stronger customer loyalty. And in today’s digital world, technology is on the top of the list for many. According to some estimates, the combined annual investment in technology is on track to reach upwards of $50B. Sales teams now have more technology than ever to support their efforts.

And technology can certainly help. So can sales training. But with companies spending more and more on both—annual investment in sales training now approaches $4.6B—the results simply aren’t following. That’s right: Even with all those billions being spent to boost sales effectiveness, the number of sales organizations with sales reps that make quota continues to drop.

Something’s clearly missing. In fact, part of the problem is that many of these organizations are focused so heavily on these tactical components that they’re missing the bigger picture all around them. Because the truth is, there is something of a magic formula when it comes to building a successful sales organization, and it comes down to principles.

Sales Success is Built on Purpose

When you look at the sales organizations that are not only meeting but surpassing their annual goals, you’ll find that they’re relentlessly focused on two core principles: purpose and values. A purpose-driven organization combined with a strong values-based culture is powerful, not just in a “feel-good” way but in brass-tacks, bottom-line terms. Research by Imperative, for example, found that 85% of purpose-led companies showed positive growth in a calendar year, while 42% of companies that were not considered purpose-driven showed a drop in revenue.

One reason is that customers respond to purpose. After all, who would you rather do business with — the company that is interested in making a difference for you and the broader community, or the company that is interested in making a buck off of you?

But it’s not just the customers. Salespeople respond to purpose, too. Purpose gives us a higher reason for doing what we’re doing. It affects our attitudes and how we respond to setbacks. It shifts our entire perspective on why we do what we do. For a salesperson, a strong purpose almost always spells the difference between being stuck on a plateau and being able to break through to achieve more, for yourself and for your customers. And when sales teams are purpose-driven and sell in a way that aligns with their values, they consistently connect more successfully with their customers’ realities and goals. 

Teachers Mutual Bank (TMB), one of Australia’s largest mutual banks, is a good example of how a purpose-driven organization can stand head and shoulders above the competition in a crowded marketplace. TMB’s bankers go through sales training in an integrity-based process that’s focused on customer needs and reflects the bank’s values of advocacy, passion and sustainability. The impact of this focus has been significant. In addition to having one of the highest Net Promotor Scores of any Australian financial institution, TMB has been recognized for the last five years by the Ethisphere Institute as one of the world’s most ethical companies. In fact, TMB is the only Australian company on the list and one of only five banks globally to receive this recognition.

What Successful Salespeople Know

Purpose-driven companies like TMB aren’t just attractive to their customers; they’re also magnets for talented people. Successful salespeople want to work where they can make a difference, where they can find meaning in what they do. And when they find that, they want to stay. According to the Harvard Business Review, employees who find work highly meaningful are 69% less likely to consider quitting their jobs within the next 6 months. Imperative’s research also found that purpose-driven workers are 54% more likely to stay for five years at a company and 30% more likely to grow into high performers than those who are motivated only by the paycheck.

It’s seemingly counterintuitive, but the fact is, the more someone focuses on a bigger purpose outside of themselves, the more meaning they’ll find in what they do — and the more motivated and energized they’ll be to build on their successes and create more value. Top performers know this, and that’s why they gravitate toward purpose-driven companies. Increasingly, the companies that are focused primarily on the financial metrics will be at a distinct disadvantage in today’s war for talent.

Focus on the Drivers of Sales Success

Most companies have mission, vision and values statements, but they struggle to bring life to the words and get everyone aligned behind them through their actions, behaviors and sales processes. Here are a few key areas to start with to help your salespeople be more successful by understanding and tapping into their selling purpose:

  • View of Selling: If you could get into the minds and hearts of your salespeople to understand their beliefs about what “selling” is, what would you find? Do they believe they’re creating value for people, or bothering them? Do they see sales as a noble profession, or one they drifted into because the money can be good?
  • Values: Values determine the boundaries of someone’s behavior. They’re the internal “rules” by which people live their lives. When salespeople can perform consistently with their values, both they and their customers will feel good about the relationship. Do your salespeople’s values align with the company’s values? Or are they expected to act in ways that conflict with their values?
  • Belief in Product: Do your salespeople have a level of passion for the company, its purpose and what you sell? Do they believe the company stands behind what it sells? Can they see the meaningful difference it makes?

Being purpose driven doesn’t mean ignoring financial metrics by any means. But here’s the thing: You can focus primarily on financial performance and still lag behind the companies that place their emphasis on operating and selling from a clear sense of purpose. Purpose-driven organizations win customers and keep them. They engage and retain their top talent. And they ignite the drive to achieve among their sales teams. As a result, they achieve revenue targets and create meaningful value for their clients.

By giving your sales reps the tools to sell to purpose, and aligning “selling” with their values, you will equip them to make a difference in the lives of others — and the financial metrics of sales success will follow.

About the Author
Mike Esterday

Partner and CEO

Mike Esterday first discovered his talent for sales when he ranked number one out of 6,000 sales professionals in his...
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