A winning sales culture starts at the top.
“Culture” is about patterns of behavior and the blend of values, habits and practices that exist in an organization. The habits and patterns of behavior that lead to an organization’s success are established by those at the top of the organization. In a B2B sales organization, we are talking about the head of sales and his or her front-line sales managers.
Having worked with roughly 150 sales organizations over the last thirteen years, I have been exposed to all types of different sales cultures. A range of cultural labels come to mind as I think about companies I’ve come to know.
Lucky sales cultures exist in those organizations that seem to win despite themselves. They have no discernible patterns of behavior or values, but they seem to win (i.e. grow bigger) anyway. Typical markers of the lucky sales culture include organizations with big, recognizable brand names, shiny silver objects, or partnerships with big, recognizable brands with shiny silver objects. Frantic cultures exist where the sales organization is always playing catch-up, rarely setting the pace, and mostly reacting to issues and opportunities that bubble up. They have no operating rhythm and no apparent focus on any one, important thing. Instead, everything is important, and everyone in the organization is exhausted. Groundhog Day cultures exist in organizations that don’t ever seem to learn. They apply the same bad habits and practices over and over again, never changing, and they hope for better results than they had in the past. One could also call these cultures “insane.”
I expect you might be able to come up with your own list of cultural labels, ranging from those that indicate high function and performance to extreme dysfunction. Rather than dwell too long on the negative experiences we’ve all had, let’s instead consider what winning cultures look like. I’ve worked within several winning cultures and played a role in helping to shape them.
Winning sales cultures share some important, common characteristics. They have a discernible rhythm in which important trumps urgent. They proactively focus on doing what it takes to differentiate and win, making the effort to create maximum value for customers in each and every interaction. Winning cultures start at the top. Their senior-most leadership makes a conscious choice to pursue excellence in all aspects of client relationship management. They intentionally focus their company’s best resources and effort on the clients and opportunities that are best aligned with their strengths as an organization. They do not make nor will they accept excuses for operating in a way that does not conform with the company’s standards of excellence. If things ever go badly, people in winning cultures own up to their role in causing the bad outcome rather than blaming others. They fix problems rather than make excuses for poor performance.
Winning sales cultures are customer-focused in all that they do. In their habits and practices, you see evidence that their people are proactive, intentional, focused, and they learn and improve when things do not go according to plan.
It is the beginning of a New Year, and now is a great time to take stock of your sales culture. What label would you place on your sales organization? Can you confidently say that you’ve established a winning culture? If not, what do you / your leaders need to do more of, do less of, change, or stop altogether?
If you have a winning culture today, what can you do to sustain and build upon your team’s winning habits and practices? What will you do to raise your own game?
United Sales Resources provides actionable intelligence and practical advice to sales leaders, so they can drive better sales results. If you would like to discuss this post with Matt McDarby or learn more about how our sales leadership coaching and advisory services help our customers to grow, then contact us for a brief tour or a conversation. Thank you again for your time!