Having a productive, collaborative, open, trusting, accountable, high performing sales culture is, arguably, the most important ingredient in a successful overall best-in-class sales organization.
“Corporate culture,” as defined by Investopedia.com, “refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company’s culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction, and every other aspect of operations.”
Research conducted by Deloitte found that 82 percent of senior executives felt that culture offered a competitive advantage. The company’s research also indicated that when culture and strategy were in alignment, there can be a lift in performance by as much as 50 percent.
I’ve conducted research of my own through over 100 interviews with sales professionals and my findings were consistent with Deloitte’s findings. Ninety-five percent of those I interviewed said that culture played a significant role in the workplace. In fact, when asked the question about the importance of culture, I found it very interesting that more than 50 percent of respondents offered more than a plain “Yes.” Fifty-four percent opined that culture was “100 percent, definitely, absolutely, for sure, hugely, massively super important”. As it was only a yes-or-no question, it caught me off guard that it elicited such an emphatic answer from so many.
When I asked sales professionals to describe what an ideal culture looked like, 77 percent talked about a focus on teamwork. Most comments were about a positive team environment where team members help one other, are focused on common goals, are accountable to one another and push each other to achieve in a collaborative workplace. Interviewees talked about wanting to feel like part of a family and the importance of camaraderie and having an open and honest environment where you can share ideas openly.
So, how do you build an ideal sales culture? How do you create an environment that breeds high performance? How do you create an environment that allows and encourages people to collaborate and thrive? How do you create an environment that facilitates trust and thereby fosters an atmosphere of autonomy, adaptability and lightning-speed execution of what it takes to achieve the desired results? How do you create an organization with an overriding purpose? How do you create a culture that puts the customer first?
Culture is developed over time by quality of leadership, belief in the company’s values and the stories that become part of the fabric of the organization. Culture is supported by your manifesto or mission statement, the people you hire, organizational structure, incentives, reward and recognition, and performance management and coaching. Culture needs to permeate the organization if you want it to be a strong and consistent element of your company.
Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor, in their book Primed to Perform, define a high- performing culture as “the system that maximizes adaptive performance through total motivation.”1 Part of the central premise in Primed to Perform is that a performance culture, by its very essence, creates an environment where adaptability thrives, and thereby it creates groupings of employees who are optimally engaged, and who are always looking to perform at their best partly by continually looking for ways to make things better. Doshi and McGregor point out that “Culture ... allows us to react to the unpredictable. It is a force of agility.”2
A culture that creates a set of values and places a priority on the needs of the employee as well as the company will be an organization that is more successful and will retain its people much longer. Sales Leaders need to value and care about the individuals on their teams. They are not just individuals that have a job to do for your company. They are individuals who have different needs, wants, emotions and feelings and objectives, which deserve to be recognized. Employees should be respected for their individual differences just as much as the needs of the organization.
The most important element of culture for me is “caring.” How do we create a caring culture? This isn’t solely about caring for your people; it’s about caring about everything. To care is to render significance to everything you do: caring about your customers, caring about your salespeople, caring about your brand and caring about all your stakeholders.
“Culture,” said Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, “is everything. That’s why I try to meet all our new graduate hires. They are our lifeblood! And I keep beating the drum-management is here to serve the workers.”3
It has been proven that emotionally intelligent leadership keeps employees more engaged, enthusiastic and motivated than leaders who create an environment that is not as positive, open and engaging. To me, this is so obvious it should go without saying; but unfortunately, there are many leaders—and I have worked with and for several—who just don’t get it.
The leadership style that does not place a high value on creating a culture of engagement will be stuck in mediocrity. Such a sales culture may do okay, and numbers might be met on occasion, but think of how well the sales organization could do with fully engaged employees and high levels of motivation and morale. The level of commitment would lift performance, the culture would attract good people and churn would be lessened. Where there is little or no emotionally intelligent leadership, people tend to not be as invested in the organization. If salespeople don’t feel they are cared for, they won’t really care about leaving and moving on at the drop of a hat or when given a better offer. This is not hearsay. It is proven.
Culture is very hard to define and difficult to measure, and yet it is critical to a company wanting to be the best of the best, or a sales team wanting to be best-in-breed. It comes with small changes, small acts, small behavioral changes and small value changes. These changes can lead to remarkable shifts in the organization that then lead to increased productivity, performance and retention of employees.
I would love to hear your viewpoint on the caring culture, please feel free to comment.
To read about other sales leadership topics or to increase your sales productivity check out my website www.streetsavvysalesleadership.com .
Street Savvy Sales Leadership
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1) Primed To Perform-How To Build The Highest Performing Cultures Through The Science Of Total Motivation, Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor, Harper Collins, 2015, page 54
2) Primed To Perform-How To Build The Highest Performing Cultures Through The Science Of Total Motivation, Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor, Harper Collins, 2015, page 55
3) Beyond Measure-The Big Impact of Small Changes. Margaret Hefferman, Ted Books, Simon and Schuster, 2015, page 80