3 Strategies for Building a Winning Sales Culture

Your sales culture is the sum-total of the attitudes, values and behaviors that permeate your team. The question is, will the sales culture you have today help you meet your goals going forward?

By Mike Esterday

In a webinar we recently co-presented with The Sales Management Association, we explored what some of the top sales cultures have in common and how you can adopt these same strategies to increase your competitive advantage, grow faster and more profitably, and build a strong base of loyal customers and brand advocates.

Organizations with great sales cultures have a way of attracting and keeping great salespeople — not just because salespeople can be financially successful in these cultures, but also because they’re more supported and confident in their ability to achieve their goals, more fulfilled in what they do, and more passionate about the work and the impact they have. They’re purpose-driven, because the culture sets the tone.

Here’s how you can build a purpose-driven sales culture that will elevate your organization and your people above of the pack in the coming year.

What a Successful Sales Culture Looks Like

One of the hallmarks of a purpose-driven culture is a commitment to selling with values and integrity. But what does that look like in practical terms? Here are three areas that these cultures pay close attention to:

1. All three sales conversations are emphasized: In many sales organizations, training is focused almost entirely around the conversations salespeople have with their customers. Those are important. But there are two other, equally consequential conversations salespeople have: with themselves and with their coaches. Strong cultures emphasize all three.

How can you follow their lead? When it comes to customer conversations, top sales leaders focus on developing their team’s skillsets so that they can sell value that’s meaningful to the customer. The conversation salespeople have with themselves — their inner talk — is about mindset, so this development centers around the person’s self-confidence and belief in what they can achieve. Finally, and just as critical, is the coaching discussion. In successful sales cultures, managers are committed to coaching and growing both the skillsets and mindsets of their reps.

2. Congruence is the goal: There are five dimensions that impact people’s productivity: view of selling, view of abilities, values, commitment to activities and belief in product. Successful sales leaders know that when any of these dimensions are out of sync or misaligned, it creates inner conflict, self-doubt, disengagement and resistance. If belief in product is low, for example, the person may be less committed to doing the activities that will make them successful.

Consider the level of passion your salespeople have for what your organization provides. Do they feel like they’re making a difference in the lives of their customers? Finding that sense of meaning in what they do is vital. It’s not the job function; it’s the purpose that provides the impetus for action. When your salespeople can tap into their purpose, their commitment to activities will go up, and so will their success.

To create a winning sales culture, help your people clarify and crystalize the purpose of what they’re doing and what it means to them personally. Similarly, think about how your salespeople view selling. When you develop them to view selling as creating value, it will give them a new perspective and a stronger purpose.

Ultimately, the goal of training should be to bring all five dimensions into alignment. When there’s congruence, positive energy, achievement drive and inner motivation are released.

3. Get clear on coaching — and then do it consistently: What’s coaching? Fifty different people may give you fifty different answers. But here’s what it’s not: It’s not managing disguised as coaching. In top cultures, sales managers understand that these are two different, equally important responsibilities.

Managing is the business side: How can I help you increase your productivity? It’s about opportunity reviews and activity management. Coaching is the human side: How can I help build and develop you? It’s about asking questions, enhancing self-awareness, clarifying and progressing toward goals, and expressing belief and building confidence. It’s realizing that people rise to their belief in what you see in them.  

Successful sales managers don’t tell you they don’t have time for coaching; they make time for it. They view coaching as a way to build a sense of culture and send a message that we’re all in this together and connected by a common purpose.

Leadership Steps You Can Take

  • Take an honest look at your culture: Does everyone live out integrity in what they do? Do you trust your people, and do they trust you? If values and integrity are important to you, is that coming across in your own behavior and in day-to-day business?
  • Translate mission and purpose into action: Most sales team meetings focus on things like numbers and how to drive more product sales. To create a more purpose-driven culture, bring more customer stories into the mix. How is what you’re doing impacting your customers? Celebrating those stories will make your mission and purpose come alive.
  • Evaluate sales manager coaching: How much coaching is really being done? If managers say there isn’t enough time, challenge them. People make time for the things they want to do. If it’s not being done, they’re not making it a priority.
  • Upgrade your sales training: If you’re not developing the whole person — as part of the training, not as an afterthought — you’re missing the most pivotal factors that contribute to your salespeople’s success. And remember, sales training is a process. Reinforcement and accountability have to be built in to get lasting behavior change.

While a strong culture starts at the top, if you don’t have that commitment from your senior leadership, take the responsibility to lead from where you are. As a manager, you can create a winning culture within you team, and that can make all the difference.



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