A successful sales culture provides a strategic advantage that is often underestimated. A successful sales culture produces better results over time. To have a successful sales culture, a sales organization needs to do more than ensure things aren’t toxic. Sales leaders can cultivate a positive sales culture by ensuring the following 11 elements are in place.
- Strong leadership
- High trust
- High standards
- Nonpunitive environment
While some sales teams have a few of these elements, highly successful sales cultures have a large number of them. You know whether a sales culture is toxic culture or successful soon after observing the sales teams. When more of these elements are present, a sales culture can offer a greater strategic advantage.
A successful sales culture doesn't create itself. The leader creates it. The leader will be highly engaged, spending a great deal of time leading their sales force. In many cases, the sales leader will work to protect their sales team from internal and external actors that would harm their team's results or harm the team's culture.
The leader of a successful sales culture sets a vision or a goal for their team to pursue. This vision or goal provides meaning and purpose, making the work something more valuable than tasks to grind out because the leader said so. The leader provides an identity to their team, making the individual contribution of each salesperson part of a larger whole. This creates a sense of belonging to something greater than self.
This element is often missing in sales cultures. Without relentless communication, there is little chance of creating and maintaining a successful sales culture. The leader will continuously communicate with their sales force, repeating themselves until everyone believes what they say is true. The sales force also communicates with each other and their leader because it is safe to discuss problems, challenges, or obstacles to success, something missing in a toxic culture.
In any successful culture, sales or otherwise, you will find high levels of trust. The leader trusts their team, and their team trusts their leader. Both the leader and their team trust each other because the leadership, vision, and communication establish what is necessary and why it's important. You will not find a shred of trust in a toxic sales culture.
A successful sales culture needs accountability. In sales, individuals have the autonomy to decide what to do and when to do it. Without the discipline that comes from accountability, there can be no successful culture. When everyone knows what is expected of them and when it needs to be done, the high trust and communication provide guardrails that ensure the individuals that make up the sales team meet their goals and targets.
Any highly successful sales team will have high standards. Everyone expects the sales force to do the right work, at the right time, in the right way—and salespeople hold themselves to these high standards as well. High standards cause everyone on the sales team to do the work in the most effective way, including the approach they use to create value for their clients and prospective clients. Whenever you see low standards and negligence, you can be certain the sales culture isn't likely to be successful.
Selling isn't easy. In fact, it's becoming more difficult. When a salesperson is struggling to produce a certain outcome or missing their targets, a nonpunitive environment will support them, helping them to improve instead of punishing them. One of the reasons salespeople grow in a successful sales culture is because they are safe to ask for the help they need to improve their results.
The best cultures always seem to have a focus on development. The people who exist in this type of company are continually growing, developing, and improving. By focusing on continuous development, the sales team continues to improve their sales effectiveness, helping them to win at higher rates than their peer groups. A culture that develops their people doesn't happen by accident. Where it exists, you find effective salespeople. Where development is missing, the sales force repeats their mediocre result year after year.
The sales force that works together to solve challenges has an advantage over one where each salesperson faces their challenges alone. The collaborative nature of a successful sales culture provides salespeople with the conversations that help them improve their strategies and their results. There is a large variability in sales forces. The collaborative nature of the team's culture makes it easy to have people with greater skills or experience to pass down what they know to their peers.
The sales leader who understands human beings will place a high priority on recognition. Recognition costs nothing and proves the sales leader is grateful for the salesperson's contribution. The culture where salespeople are recognized for their good work tends to be positive. The leader building a successful sales culture will find that recognition is valued by their team.
There can be no successful sales culture without integrity. Any successful culture is built on honesty, integrity, and candor. Nothing is ever hidden, and no one is permitted to do anything that would ruin the trust among the sales team.
Building a Successful Sales Culture
It isn't easy to build a successful sales culture and, once established, it requires effort to maintain over time, protecting it from anything and anyone who could disrupt it.
A successful sales culture is one that provides the sales force with what they need to produce the results they are pursuing. The better the environment, the better the results. You can't build this kind of sales culture alone. You need each person on your team to contribute, rejecting anything that might harm the culture, the sales force, or their results. Another thing you will notice about a highly successful sales culture is that people spend a lot of time talking about selling.