A practical handbook on how to keep your sales culture in great shape, and how to turn things around if it isn’t.
You walk in the building ready for the day, and pass yet another newly empty desk. The eyes of your colleagues are sunken in with dread, and you try not to think about the next 8 hours of calls you have to make before you can leave. A colleague throws his headset on the ground in frustration. A manager instills competition between you and the only other woman on your team. There is an eerie silence. The windows are sealed shut so no one jumps.
You practically arrive skipping into your office, and everyone you see says hi to you. You can’t wait to start implementing some new strategies you’ve come up with, and look forward to the chance to tell your team members they worked in the next meeting. You feel confident, happy, and full of love for the work you do and the people who share your space. You feel supported by your team members, managers, and even board members. The day flies by, leaving you with plenty of energy to do something else you love after work.
Which scenario would you rather have, every day, for 8 hours a day?
We honestly hope you chose number 2.
Scenario 1 is an example of a toxic sales culture, while Scenario 2 is an example of a healthy sales culture. You may have come across one or another throughout your career, and probably noticed how intensely the culture in your team manifests itself in your own work, attitude, mental and physical health, and life in general. After all, we do not leave our selves at home when we are at work.
Working in sales is tremendously rewarding, but can also be tremendously challenging. The fast-paced nature of the role and the pressure to generate the company’s revenue can cause a lot of stress.
When you manage a team, this complexity escalates quickly with the added responsibility of keeping all these different personalities happy and motivated, not to mention productive.
So how can you, as a team lead, manager or Head of Sales, make sure that you are providing Scenario 2 to those who work with you instead of Scenario 1?
It’s no big secret:
healthy sales cultures = high-performing sales teams
Whatever the product, the size of your team or your particular workplace politics, working hard to achieve and maintain the right sales culture will keep employees on your side and doing what they do best: bringing in and keeping customers happy.
We won’t lie, this is a work in progress that may take some time, but it will be absolutely worth it when you see your office has become a space that inspires hard work and where people love to be.
If you are a Head of Sales, a manager or a team lead, creating a healthy sales culture starts by assessing its current status, including its strengths and flaws. If you feel things could be a bit better, all you have to do is take baby steps to turn things around.
Analysing your sales culture
The first step to turning things around is observing what it looks like it already. With an objective eye, really look and see if your team has any of the following signs.
Signs your sales culture is healthy already:
- There is continuous improvement within your team.
- People are actually having fun and interacting with each other in a healthy way.
- Salespeople want to work for you. The roles you’re hiring for are easy to fill.
- You have a low sales representative turnover.
- The executive team cares about sales.
- There are good relationships between teams and their members, not only because they have to work on shared projects but also because they enjoy spending time together.
You may realise when reading these signs that your sales team is already very healthy. If that’s the case, you are doing a fantastic job and should be incredibly proud!
If you realise some of these signs are missing or could be improved, there are most likely underlying issues to address.
Signs your sales culture might be harmful or toxic:
- You have a high sales rep turnover, or have noticed it has changed drastically over the last few months.
- Sales have started to have a high cost, while the average deal size has lowered significantly.
- You’ve overheard conversations about backstabbing, or people fearing consequences for failing.
- Roles have been challenging to fill, even though specs and compensations are attractive.
- Former high-performing employees have started to look disengaged, bored or unhappy.
- Nobody actually knows what the values are, or if they do, no one mentions them.
- Team members feel they can’t do anything unless it is what their managers want, the status quo, or ‘the way things have always been done’. They are not encouraged to take risks, experiment, or even share their ideas.
- Employees are frequently ill.
Even if the working atmosphere may seem generally positive, you may find some members of your team showing one or more of these symptoms.
If this is the case, they may be experiencing a toxic sales culture, and fixing it should be your first priority. If your employees are not able to feel your support or that of your sales culture, they may lose the necessary motivation to keep working, and will eventually leave.
The good news is that by just observing these signs, you have taken the first step to ensuring your sales team’s health.
How to turn things around?
The 20 Commandments of a healthy sales culture
If you’re in a position of power, you have the responsibility and ability to make change.
1. Set team values
Establish clear values and communicate them to the whole team.
Ensure you and everybody around you lives, hires and works by these values.
2. Agree on clear goals
Define goals together, as a team and as a company.
The goals of your team may be more detailed than the goals the company has. If that’s the case, make sure you invest time and effort on having as many meetings as needed to solidify and properly communicate them.
3. Keep improving your product
Analyse the product and change it if customers are not happy with it.
Pay special attention to the feedback that both customers and prospects share with your sales team. The world is changing every day. There is no point in selling a product people do not want.
4. Listen actively
Be open to listening to everyone’s ideas. Be agile and flexible.
Listen to your team’s feedback and change the way your sales team does things if something could be improved. Let people experiment and inspire them to do so!
5. Set achievable KPIs
Look at the data and use it to set realistic goals. Unrealistic goals can create a culture of failure.
6. Upskill your team
Come up with coaching and development plans for your sales team.
If you do not have a Head of People or somebody working on learning and development for the company, this is even more essential. Bear in mind that it will be different and more sales-specific when you do it as a Head of Sales, as you cannot afford your team to be stagnant in their abilities.
7. Celebrate failures
Give your sales team the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
Have one-to-ones and celebrate your sales team members’ failures, using them as a starting point to work together and helping them learn from them.
8. Encourage healthy competition
A healthy internal competition can advance your business, unlock an individual’s potential and make the journey of achieving the goal a valuable lesson for your team.
9. Empower your team
Introduce your employees to self-policing.
Avoid micromanaging your team at all costs. You want a team that is autonomous and confident in their own ability to make decisions.
10. Make data-driven decisions
Consult your data and use whatever you have across all stages of decision-making.
11. Watch the progress
Measure and report progress! This is the happiest part of sales and what will set your sales culture apart.
12. Be transparent across all levels
If something’s happening at the ‘top’, share it and make sure the rest of the team feel they have a right to know what’s going on.
13. We’re all in this together!
You and the entire company should be dedicated to the sales team’s success.
14. CELEBRATE SUCCESSES !
15. Let people go
Address and handle issues as they happen, protecting your team from negative individuals who create a bad work environment.
16. Hold yourself and others accountable
Instill a sense of self-responsibility and discipline within the team.
17. Communicate and reinforce processes
Share the right balance of tips, best practices, and worst-case scenario experiences you’ve been through to educate your team on the consequences of their decisions
18. Align for a healthy culture
Make sure all teams and everybody across the board are displaying the kind of leadership and values you believe to be essential to having a healthy culture.
19. Build a family environment
Create a sense of family and camaraderie across all members of your team.
The healthiest sales teams are loving.
20. Offer flexible working
Whether it’s working part-time, allowing people to set their hours, or working from home, offering flexible working for your employees increases productivity. Trusting your employees and respecting their health, values and work-life balance will also naturally create a healthier working environment, physically and mentally.
Now that you’ve seen how easy it is to transition towards a healthy sales culture, why wouldn’t you start?
Even if your company is ‘set in its ways’, as a Head of Sales you have the power to make changes, even by experimenting with changing one tiny things at a time. Keep a positive, confident mindset and remember that your time and effort will be significantly rewarded when you’re sure your team feels and works at its best.
Don’t forget to invest time in planning, defining processes, and communicating with different members to gather feedback, making sure you don’t leave anything or anybody behind.
Sharing is caring, so don’t forget to keep track of your team’s wellbeing, any innovative processes you’ve put in place, and the feedback you’ve received and communicate them across the board. Help other teams improve by sharing what has helped your own.
Having a healthy sales culture is good for everyone. It’s also good for YoY growth. By following the steps listed above, you’ll easily create a team of happy, committed employees who are willing to go the extra mile (or two) for your company.