How do you create a great sales culture? Sales leaders in popular culture are often depicted as tough, they are winners, and they don’t stand for nonsense. They didn’t build a sales team through endless meetings with HR. Sales leaders in the movies are people like Gordon “greed is good” Gekko or Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street.
These are great characters to watch in a movie, but the work environment these people were depicted in is generally toxic. They can convince people to buy anything, but really they are just cheating crooks. The fictional Gekko ended up in prison, as did the real-life Jordan Belfort, although both eventually made a comeback.
So how do you nurture a sales culture inside your company that focuses on creating the right environment to make sales, but also creates a positive environment — a place that people really want to do their best work? There are many books and articles on this, but from my own experience you need to pay attention to these six steps:
1. Hire the right people: You can’t have people on the team who hate engaging with other people; it just will not work. It is easier for you to hire people with the right attitude and sales knowledge and then to teach them about your products, rather than seeking out people who know your products but don’t necessarily like spending all day helping people.
2. Continuous training and seeking knowledge: The base of a great sales culture is to make sure you have a strong onboarding program so your team gets the knowledge and skills they need to talk about your products but encourage ongoing and continuous learning. Use online systems and gamification — make it fun to keep learning.
3. Get the goals right: Sales goals are usually “sell a bit more than last month,” but take the time to work with your team on realistic goals and measures. Don’t create unnecessary stress over numbers when sometimes you can’t control the situation.
4. Freedom to help: Your sales team needs knowledge and some key points, perhaps a basic script, but give them the freedom to engage with each customer in a unique way — every customer is different and if your sales team learns how to approach different people, then they will be more successful.
5. Innovate and fail fast: Encourage new ideas and techniques. You can really boost the team by respecting their ideas and implementing the best ones but have the courage to scrap new ideas quickly if they are not working out, in a way that does not penalize the team. The quickest way to stop new ideas is to punish your sales team when an experiment doesn’t work out.
6. Have fun and celebrate: You can encourage team energy by celebrating sales and target achievements and creating a fun place to be. Your work environment should feel supportive, encouraging, and fun. Your team is coming to work to sell, but they are also helping the customers who buy your products. Reinforce this message — we are helping people and that’s fun.
All of these steps are important for healthy sales culture and need to be strategically managed together. You need to start out by hiring people who fit the brand and then building the environment. A positive and fun sales culture can be nurtured, but you need the executive team to think step-by-step how it should function. These six steps are just my initial thoughts on how to start planning for a great sales culture, but I have other papers and resources — just get in touch for more ideas.
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