A Strong Sales Culture Demands More Than Having Great Salespeople
Salespeople hold pride of place in many small businesses and are often some of the first new employees that a business owner hires when looking to expand his or her business. A competent and motivated sales team is a crucial asset for any SME. However, having great salespeople on your payroll, on its own, is not a guarantee of consistent growth and sales. For this to happen, you need to cultivate a strong sales culture within your business. Let’s look at what a sales culture means and how you can start building one within your SME.
What does it mean to have a ‘sales culture’?
In any business, the business owner, senior directors, and the sales team are usually sales-focused (or at least they should be). In other words, through their behaviours, their attitude, and advocacy of the business, they seek to promote and grow their company at every opportunity – indirectly through brand awareness, as well as when directly involved in sales activity. At the same time, in a typical business, most employees are not sales-focused. They concentrate on delivering their own job objectives, and maybe team KPIs, without being overly concerned with the strategic direction of the business.
The principle behind a sales culture is that the more people who have a stake in your success as a company, the more opportunities you have to develop productivity and increase revenues. A sales culture expands the focus and motivation of the salespeople and senior team to encompass the wider employee base so that all employees are more oriented towards sales and value creation as it applies within their own roles.
Of course, not everyone in a business is customer-facing or intimately involved in the sales process, but value creation also includes efficiency and cost savings, increased productivity, opportunity identification, quality assurance, customer service, retention, and upselling/cross-selling, as well as new business sales. Every employee has a potential role to play in this, even in such ‘basic’ ways as being a good advocate for your business on social media, or being valued for the insights and knowledge they share with their team members, managers, and sales colleagues.
With this expanded sales culture comes a greater sense of company cohesion, motivation, and awareness, leading to better staff retention, greater productivity, and ultimately, higher-performing businesses.
This is why having great salespeople doesn’t necessarily equate to having a strong sales culture. For this to happen, sales-based KPIs, incentives, and strategic knowledge have to be more broadly based within each department and team, with sales KPIs that reflect the top-level business goals at an individual level.
How to develop and strengthen the sales culture in your business
A strong sales culture doesn’t develop automatically, and it isn’t straightforward to measure – unlike, for instance, annual turnover, KPI attainment, average sales revenues etc. As a business owner, you can help a healthy sales culture develop by putting the systems, values, and incentives in place to help it grow and thrive.
1) Systems and processes
A broad-based sales culture among your salespeople and wider staff members relies on solid communication processes and software systems to disseminate sales information among your staff and recognise and award success. In particular, efforts should be made to establish good collaboration and knowledge-sharing channels. This means, at the very least, that you should invest in a good sales and marketing CRM and seek regular input from your department heads and team leaders about how best to engage the wider team in value creation. Sales orientation should also be incorporated into the recruitment and onboarding process for all new members of staff, with clearly outlined expectations and rewards.
A sales culture is ultimately about shared values and a common vision among your team. The leadership for this must come from the top, but in order for a culture to take root, it must be recognised as beneficial to individual employees so that buy-in is as widespread as possible. Company values that help foster a healthy sales culture include:
- Friendly competition.
- Customer service-focused sales.
- Mutual respect.
- Recognition of individual accomplishments.
- Open and candid communication between management and staff.
- Introspection (this prevents a sales culture from becoming something that managers tell their line reports that they should be doing, with all the associated blame and recriminations for underachievement. Instead, every employee is prompted to reflect on what she or he achieved today/yesterday/this week to create value in the company, and what they need to change to become more efficient and productive. This might form part of a formal one-to-one management process, or it could simply be encouraged as a private reflection.)
These team-focused values are essential to prevent a ‘toxic’ sales culture from emerging, which is focused too much on individualism, personal commissions, and one-upmanship, at the expense of group success.
3) Incentives and rewards
Without a system of fair compensation and incentives, not restricted to commissions for salespeople and bonuses for directors, your efforts to establish a sales culture are likely to fall on deaf ears with your staff. You clearly want to have a good OTE (on target earnings) structure in place for your sales team that reflects the norms in your sector (also open to other staff members that help to close deals in other areas), but it also pays to have an incentive scheme in place to reward employees who achieve their sales-focused KPIs, or go above and beyond in their role as advocates for your business in their day-to-day role. These could be financial in nature but can also encompass non-monetary incentives like an additional holiday, group activities, coupons, and public recognition within the company.
Find out more
JDR, we take a 360° view of our customers’ sales processes, culture, and growth objectives, to implement a personalised plan that focuses on strengthening every aspect of the company towards higher performance, better motivation, and greater prosperity. To find out more about how a sales culture fits in with better results from marketing and sales, please call 01332 343281 today.
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