The term “sales culture” is a bit of a fuzzy concept. Its quality can’t be measured the same way your team’s monthly revenue, email activity, average tenure, or quota achievement can, but that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant.
All of those elements and several others are influenced by your company’s sales culture.
The quality of your sales culture determines how much your salespeople sell, how productive they are, how long they stay with your organization, and what benefits can your sales organization expect to reap from how you’ve structured your sales team.
Here, we’ll discuss several aspects of sales culture, what a good one looks like, how to improve yours, and how to scale it as your company grows.
How to build a winning sales culture
- Encourage healthy competition
- Low turnover of reps
- Move quickly through issues
- Collaboration and information exchange
- Communication and trust
- Have a common goal in mind
- Encourage learning and development
- Maintain a sense of responsibility and accountability
- How to scale your sales culture as your business expands
- The role of congruence in sales
What is the definition of sales culture?
The terms usually found attached to the notion of “sales culture” are:
While all of those characteristics are desirable in some way, not every sales culture embraces them. And, in many cases, terms like hectic, cutthroat, drab, or unprofessional can be used to describe a sales culture.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a strong sales culture; they come in all shapes and sizes.
While the components of a healthy, productive company culture may differ depending on a firm, the indicators of such a culture are reasonably consistent.
Let’s have a look at how they might appear.
What makes a successful sales culture?
If you promote a solid, healthy sales culture, your salespeople will perform at their best.
But, what does this mean?
- Healthy competition is good.
- Low turnover of reps.
- The ability to promptly detect and correct flaws in the sales process.
- Collaboration and sharing of information.
- Communication and trust (both within the team and the greater organization).
- A shared vision.
- Continuous learning and developing.
While your sales culture may not reflect all (or even half) of these characteristics, addressing each is quite necessary. We’ll address each one in the lines below.
A culture of sales: Best practices to follow
Step 1. Encourage healthy competition
The majority of salespeople thrive in a competitive environment.
If you let “competition” become “cutthroat,” your salespeople may start withholding beneficial advice and information from one another, trash-talk one another, or attempt to steal opportunities.
So, how can you maintain a healthy competitive spirit without pitting your sales representatives against one another?
- Give your team an external competitor, to begin with. They work together and become closer because they have a common “enemy.” You can motivate them to outperform another team or outsell your market’s top competitors.
- Inspire them to set new personal bests. Direct their competitive energy toward improving on last month’s sales goals or quarter’s outcomes – by directing their competitive energy toward their own numbers, you’ll reduce their resentment of their peers.
- Mix and match newer and more experienced reps. Having a go-to mentor will not only speed up the ramp-up process and provide security and comfort to your new hires while reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- Take advantage of a number of sales competitions and incentives. However, make sure you don’t repeat the same sales contests — not only will the same people keep winning (causing everyone else to give up ultimately), but you’ll also turn the winners into natural targets.
Consider organizing a competition to see who can arrange the most team meetings in the first month. Then, the next day, reward the person who has the shortest average sales cycle.
Give an incentive to the salesperson who signs the most deals with a specific sort of prospect the following month.
If you continually shake things up, you’ll offer everyone a chance to win and keep things interesting.
You can also hold contests for the entire team.
For example, you could set a goal for your entire team to meet for your latest product launch or increase activity by a certain percentage.
Step 2. Low turnover of reps
Regularly losing salespeople is a huge red signal for potential candidates.
Furthermore, locating and training new ones is quite expensive, and having a constantly shifting “roster” is terrible for morale.
Make sure you carefully select the best salespeople to reduce rep turnover. Selective hiring will definitely lengthen the process, but it will save you money in the long run.
Managers should provide plenty of coaching to your sales agents, not just when they initially start but also throughout their time with your organization.
Implement a disciplined coaching routine, and ask your salespeople if they’re getting the training and management they require on a regular basis.
Although money isn’t the only reason salespeople leave, paying a lower-than-market wage will likely hurt your retention.
Maintain your on-target earnings (OTE) at or above the average for the role, industry, and region. Loving your job is one thing; profitability of it is another.
Finally, feeling stuck contributes significantly to sales turnover. Make sure you have a clear promotion path in place. For instance, you may want to have a well-defined career path from BDR to AE to Senior AE.
As salespeople gain more experience and expertise, they’ll be inspired to advance as they’ll have a clear structure to rely on.
Step 3. Move quickly through issues
The ability of a sales organization to move quickly is critical. For example, suppose a company’s executives decide to enter a new vertical.
In that case, everyone in the sales organization must quickly become familiar with a new customer base, learn some industry-specific terminology to help build credibility with prospects, adjust their sales messaging collectively, and take several other steps to approach its new target prospects better.
Such a complex process will be possible only if the team is agile. However, the team will inevitably fail if it cannot experiment, learn from its failures, and adapt.
To encourage agility, host a daily 10-minute team stand-up where everyone stands to promote the time limit so that you stay on track.
Each team member should answer the following three questions:
- What did you accomplish yesterday?
- What are your plans for today?
- What changes do you need to make in order to increase your metrics and get the best sales?
Ascertain that your representatives have access to the information they require. Everyone should be able to see their own and their team’s performance. Without adequate data, sound decisions are impossible to make.
Finally, promote a “fail quickly” mentality. Salespeople should take risks, from trying a new prospecting sales strategy to experimenting with different negotiation strategies.
It’s okay if they fail as long as they document and publish their findings widely. The findings will assist everyone in learning and improving.
Step 4. Collaboration and information exchange
It’s critical to foster a company culture where your sales force interacts and freely shares insights and strategies; unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
One of the most prevalent hurdles to a good sales culture is a lack of communication, not just between sales leadership and reps, but among the base team as well.
Give it your best to create an atmosphere that encourages open dialogue. Is there a simple, convenient way for sales professionals to communicate?
It’s advised those lines of communication must go beyond casual water cooler banter.
- Get everyone on Slack or a similar chat channel and say something like,“Hey, this new combination of CRM filters is turning up some hot leads!” It’s as simple as typing it.
- Be sure your teammates promote teamwork. You don’t want reps to keep their knowledge to themselves. Try holding competitions that require the team to work together rather than individually.
- Check to determine if you’re focusing on the quality of ideas rather than the origins of those ideas. Let’s imagine your SDR comes up with a great idea. Give it a go! Don’t shoot them down just because they’re new or inexperienced.
- Promote freedom of speech and idea-sharing. Say your salesperson slammed the new chat track; despite not liking what they had to say – if they made valid arguments and conveyed them appropriately – consider their contribution useful. Avoid creating a climate where people are afraid to speak up because a “wrong idea” gets your head bitten off.
- Encourage people to share their knowledge. Consider awarding points for providing helpful and valuable information. For example, an AE could win a monthly $300 “Innovation Bonus” if they develop a new technique that makes prospects 40% less likely to cancel their demo at the last minute.
Step 5. Communication and trust
Sales reps rarely prosper in an environment that lacks trust, and connectivity. It is up to sales managers to build that trust and encourage healthy communication.
There are three basic phases to accomplishing this.
1. Accept feedback and act on it
A great manager pays attention to their employees and, more importantly, responds to their suggestions.
Are they dissatisfied with the existing sales training method and the onboarding process? A skilled sales leader will try to come up with a better format.
Do they want their deals less tampered with? Within reason, a good manager takes a step back. Would they prefer more openness from senior management? A competent manager strives to achieve this.
Even if sales managers are unable to complete all tasks, demonstrating effort will earn them a great deal of respect.
In addition, most managers make the mistake of listening to their top performers only; just because someone is new, or lacks some sales skills doesn’t mean their voice shouldn’t be heard.
So, apart from regularly communicating with your high-performing employees, including new hires and less successful reps into the communication circle.
2. Say ‘no’ to micromanaging
It’s a two-way street when it comes to building trust. If you show your staff that you trust them, they will be more likely to do the same.
If they want to build a great sales culture, sales managers must avoid micromanaging at all costs. The only time extra attention is justified is if a particular salesperson struggles with their tasks and needs extra guidance.
Bottom line? Give your sales reps the freedom they need to deliver results!
Allow your salespeople to work from wherever they’re most productive rather than condition them to come into the office; encourage them to rely on support tools like sales templates instead of wasting time on creating them from scratch, etc.
Other than providing necessary guidance, your role as a manager is to offer support that will make their role a more pleasant responsibility to embrace.
3. Stick to your word
Always maintain your word as a boss when you say you’ll do something.
Reliability is a cornerstone of trust, and if your reps realize you’re trustworthy, they’ll be more devoted to you and will want to help you build a sales culture they’ll want to be a part of.
It’s simple to keep track of more extensive commitments, such as “If everyone shows up to the weekly sales meeting for the entire month, I’ll add an extra day to your vacation sheet.”
The minor ones, like “I’ll email you my comments by tomorrow night” or “I’ll put in a request for new presentation software this afternoon,” must not be overlooked.
These are equally significant and contribute to the sales manager’s reputation as a trustworthy individual.
Step 6. Have a common goal in mind
To show up and work hard every day, salespeople are seeking more than just a monetary incentive. Although a shared vision isn’t required for success, it keeps reps engaged and inspires them to collaborate when times are rough.
The mission should be distinct and specific. For example, “Become the most successful team within the organization,” or “increase retention by X percentage.”
It should be measured, if at all feasible so that everyone knows where they stand. Also, consider including the team in the planning phase if you want a vision that they are enthusiastic about.
Bring up your team’s progress and individual contributors regularly. This reinforces the vision and keeps it in front of your reps’ minds. Consider this: “Become industry thought leaders” is one of the principles of your sales vision.
You drop a remark in the team Slack room when another rep posts a LinkedIn Pulse post with 500 or more likes “Andrea, congrats on your fantastic LinkedIn article, which is gaining traction. Is it something that everyone will enjoy if they get a chance to see it? It’s great to watch our salespeople establish themselves as domain specialists.”
This will not only make the people you recognize happy, but it will also motivate others to do the same.
Step 7. Encourage learning and development
Salespeople should constantly be learning new sales skills and methods.
Not only does customer behavior evolve, but technology also allows for new strategies to be implemented while rendering old ones obsolete.
Many training programs, unfortunately, are:
- One-offs: A week-long all-day off-site.
- Product-centric: Mostly about the company’s newest product or service.
- All-in-one solution: Generic and not exclusive to a particular business or expertise.
Step 8. Maintain a sense of responsibility and accountability
A healthy team relies on its members being held accountable. If representatives see bad sales performance go unchecked, quotas will begin to feel like suggestions rather than rigorous targets.
Even worse, if management fails to indicate that a salesperson is in danger of being dismissed due to poor sales performance, the abrupt, seemingly unexpected dismissal may harm morale and leave team members wondering if they will be next.
- Define your expectations clearly to handle these developments. Each salesperson should know their responsibilities. This could be a set number of calls per day, meetings per week, demos per month, or meeting quotas. You may avoid unpleasant surprises by having objective standards and ensuring that everyone is aware of them.
- If someone is having difficulty, don’t wait for things to improve. Intervene and inquire as to why they aren’t performing. Do they appear to be unmotivated? Are they having trouble with a specific aspect of the sales process? Find out what’s going on and do everything you can to solve the problem.
- Put them on a performance improvement plan if necessary (PIP). These spell out a list of definite, unmistakable objectives that the rep must meet within a certain amount of time. A good PIP analyzes the problem (where the rep is falling short), what they’ll do to fix it, whether they’ll need support or resources to improve their professional development, and how much time they’ll get. For example, if they only set four demos per week and their role’s quota is 12, their sales activities can be as follows: “Make 50 phone calls per day to potential clients. One call review per day is sufficient. With the manager’s assistance, create a new conversation track. Attend an objection handling workshop.”
Other typical accountability blunders include trying too hard to be their reps’ friends rather than their boss (which makes it more challenging to attain the necessary outcomes and crackdown on mediocrity).
Also, avoiding to take responsibility for themselves (which causes their team to ignore them when they try to manage).
How to scale your sales culture as your business expands
Creating a sales culture is one thing; it’s another to ensure that those ideals are maintained as your company grows.
Here are some pointers on how to do it correctly.
Allow the leaders to set the tone
The dedication of company leadership is the first step in scaling a sales culture. Your company’s executives and high management must adhere to and display the values that form your company’s sales culture.
A company’s culture starts at the top, and you can’t lose sight of it as it grows.
If you want to scale your sales culture as your company grows, you’ll need to keep communication open and available across the board.
To develop and maintain a unified, communicative culture that adheres to the ideals you strive to exemplify, make sure your employees can readily communicate with one another.
Investing in company-wide communication tools like Slack, encouraging employee camaraderie outside of the workplace, and having managers meet with their direct reports regularly are all strategies to support this cause.
Maintain a repository of easily accessible, company-specific information and tools
Properly scaling your sales culture as your company grows depends mainly on your ability to communicate your values and brand identity to employees.
Keeping a centralized foundation of company-specific material is one approach to get there.
Customer testimonials, mission statements, excellent employee anecdotes, records of company history, and other essential reference points for building your sales culture can all be collected and displayed using a resource like a company wiki.
Also, make sure your employees have unlimited access to the tools that will make their jobs easier.
For example, PandaDoc offers a number of tried-and-true sales proposal templates based on extensive testing and research, including a standard multi-purpose template and a more condensed “small proposal.”
Alternatively, for software, SaaS, or physical products, there are dedicated templates on offer.
If using a tested, quality-proofed template would eliminate frustration and speed up the sales process of your sales reps, why not subscribe to PandaDoc and give them unlimited access?
Don’t look at buying sales tools as an unnecessary expense; instead, observe them as a necessary addition that will make your team’s productivity even better.
The role of congruence in sales
People’s productivity is influenced by five factors: their perspective on selling, their abilities, their values, their devotion to activities, and their belief in the product.
According to successful sales leaders, if any of these dimensions are out of sync or misaligned, it leads to internal turmoil, self-doubt, disengagement, and resistance.
If a person’s faith in the product is poor, for example, they may be less motivated to engage in the actions that will help them succeed.
Consider how enthusiastic your salespeople are about the services your company offers. Do they believe they are making a difference in their clients’ lives?
It is critical that people find significance in their work. The incentive for action is provided by the purpose, not the job function. Your salespeople’s dedication to activities will increase, as will their success, if they can tap into their purpose.
Help your team explain and crystalize the purpose of what they’re doing and what it means to them personally to develop a winning sales culture.
Consider how your salespeople see selling in the same way. It will give them a new perspective and a more definite purpose if you teach them to see selling as providing value.
At the end of the day, the purpose of effective sales training should be to align all five dimensions. When there is congruence, positive energy, achievement drive, and inner motivation are actively released.
It’s not easy to create and maintain a good sales culture and a successful sales team, but imploying the tips (or at least some of them!) we’ve listed above may significantly impact employee satisfaction and the bottom line.
Setting proper company values from the get-go, communicating with your team openly, eliminating a toxic mindset, and providing your team with the right tools (yes, we refer to PandaDoc!) will let you hire and train excellent salespeople, achieve your goals, and make everyone on your team proud to work for you.
Originally published May 24, 2019, updated January 4, 2022