I know you’ve heard someone say, “We have a high performance culture here at Amalgamated. We have high expectations of all our people!” So, if you’ve been a member of a larger national sales organization how often did the term “high performance culture” turn out to have any benefit for you as a person in the trenches? Did the leadership team have high expectations of themselves on creating a sales culture that was not only good for shareholders, but also good for clients and employees?
Sorry for a little culture slamming, and I won’t mention any companies, but here’s the facts m’am.
“We have a high performance culture” usually means we are going to expect a lot from you. Okay, fine. But what can I expect from you in return? Can I expect a vibrant lead generation program? Can I expect to have a manager in my corner who will routinely carve time out of their schedule to help me succeed? Instead of telling me that I’m not doing enough can you tell me how to do more? Can I expect to have up-to-date sales collateral so my presentations help prospects visualize the benefits of our programs? When I bust my hump to over deliver can I enjoy even better rewards next year or will I bask in the sunlight with dramatically increased goals coupled with dramatically lower commissions? In other words, will you invest as much in me as I am being asked to invest in you?
First I would like to propose a definition of what an organizational culture is; The quality that arises in a person by virtue of belonging to a group. That person’s behavior begins to reflect what they have learned through training and observing others in that group. With time, the members form agreement with what the group prizes as excellence. So with my definition of culture let me disclose something else. I am a huge believer in building a culture that benefits clients, stakeholders and employees equally. I believe strongly that satisfied employees will deliver a superior service, which customers will be willing to pay for…and stakeholders like that outcome.
So where do you begin to build a sales culture that will help develop a sustainable world class sales organization? Essentially there are four drivers;
- Sales Effectiveness – A bundle of skills that arm each sales person & account manager with the tools they need to effectively help prospects navigate through a buying process and end up with needs that are satisfied. This isn’t just about holding people accountable to having & using these skills. It’s really about hiring people with high potential and then provided them with the training they need. This is much more than simply enrolling people in training. This is field managers who are experts in all the skill areas, and providing them the training they need to be excellent coaches in the field.
- Reward & Recognition – There is a lot more to reward & recognition than a compensation plan & an annual outing. The compensation plan should produce a target income at sales goal attainment. Your peak performers should earn two or three times what your average performers earn. Why? Because sales people are great understudies and peak performers are the people you want them to imitate. Management reports should be shared throughout the organization and include not just the top performers but also the strugglers. The only people that should not make the standing report should be untenured sales people. Additionally there are all kinds of recognition vehicles formed around peer recognition, Sr. Management recognition and yes, family and friend recognition. For those recognized this affirms their contributions. For those that did not make the grade it affirms what the organization values.
- Execution – Do all members of the team understand the sales strategy? Good communication is the key and good communication is not solely reliant upon the message…good communication is driven by understanding. Can people recite a summary of what the strategy is? Do they understand the role they play in the execution of that strategy? Has there been a set of metrics devised that will benchmark how well the organization is performing and how well each team member is doing?
- Field Leadership – The Rosetta Stone of the quality of yoursales culture is the company’s investment in first level field sales managers. If you’re expecting for your army of revenue generators to win battles you’re going to have to invest in field support. Do your field generals understand their priorities? How should they be investing their time & energy? Is it 50% making sales calls, 30% admin., 15% forecasting and 15% coaching & developing people? If this is the reality of how people are spending their time your organization may never get any better than it is today. I have one question for CEOs and top Sales Officers. How many leadership training courses have you delivered to your field generals in the last 5 years? Don’t hold them accountable for moving from a peak performing sales person to an excellent management leader. That’s your job.
Is a heart healthy culture worth the investment? Only if you want the best sales people in your industry to aspire to work for your company.
The sales culture that develops in your organization cannot be controlled, but you can influence it dramatically. Your culture will be known for a theme, for it’s character, for it’s composure, for it’s courage and yes…for it’s care for people. You must deliver results, but how you go about delivering those results will define your culture.