Sales Culture Checkup: 6 Key Questions to Unlock Business Growth
Most organizations' company culture is holding them back. And the reason why is that it needs to be results driven.
So, does company culture inhibit sales growth? Yes. When company culture is mismatched across departments, you inhibit sales growth, but it ultimately stems from a lack of clear core values, accountability measures, and transparency within the organization.
A strong sales culture is essential to the success of any sales organization. It defines the attitudes, behaviors, and values that drive sales performance and provides a framework for creating a positive and productive work environment. A positive sales culture derives itself from your company values and mission.
You can represent the relationship this way:
core values → company culture → actions/performance
In this article, we will explore what sales culture is, why a results-driven sales culture is best, and the questions leaders need to ask themselves to establish a great sales culture that drives high performance and retains employees for company growth.
What is sales culture?
Sales culture refers to the shared attitudes, behaviors, and values defining a sales team’s operations. It reflects the organization’s overall culture and is shaped by its leadership, vision, and goals cultivated by the sales leader. A high level of collaboration, teamwork, and a performance-driven mindset characterizes a successful sales culture. It is a culture that values continuous learning and development, open communication, and feedback and recognizes and celebrates success.
Is your organization's sales culture inhibiting growth?
Ask yourself the following six questions:
- What are your company’s core values?
- What values does your company prioritize?
- How have you intentionally established the company culture in the team?
- How do you measure sales culture within your team?
- How does your sales hiring process consider company culture?
- How do you enforce sales culture?
What are your company's core values?
In sales, your primary objective is predictability and consistency to meet sales targets and quotas. Core values and the company culture they cultivate are crucial in achieving predictability and consistency as they dictate the sales strategy, actions, and behaviors that foster desirable results and success.
Sales teams need a clear understanding of their company’s stated values. Typically, many organizations need help organizing themselves around these values. In these situations where systemizations lack value alignment, management’s decisions vary from topic to topic, department to department, and year to year, resulting in destructive behaviors and negative sales culture.
Below are some examples of values a company may want to emphasize:
- Revenue Results
- Environmental Impact and Sustainability
- Employee Happiness
- Financial Responsibility
- Work-life Balance
- Fairness & Equality
These values represent the organization’s personality and body myth. They are clear, distinct, and close to interpretation by senior management, employees, and customers.
Core values are specific and measurable, translating into a sales management style that feeds into a sales vision. If you do not know what your company stands for, then generally speaking, you’re allowing space for negative culture to grow.
Which core values do you prioritize?
Ask yourself, which core value do you prioritize above all else? If your priority is not results-oriented, then it’s very likely that you’re sacrificing sales and should expect slower growth.
Many CEOs dislike prioritizing results because we place upon it negative connotations. Many sales leaders fear their sales professionals will cut corners, close deals unethically, and resort to high stake practices if they put the number one focus on achieving success. More so, there is a fear that a high-achieving workplace culture risks high turnover, satisfaction, and employee engagement.
That is untrue. And here’s why:
When you prioritize business performance and results first, there is no excuse for a sales rep not to meet a quota or achieve results; nothing else matters.
But the second most crucial value dictates how you achieve those results; you align and frame it within the company’s culture and guidelines.
Thus, you will never throw ethics out. Your secondary values provide the framework for how you govern your organization.
Do you want sales growth within sales teams? Make results your number one priority.
How have you intentionally established a sales culture?
Sales leaders need to reflect on two questions:
- How have you intentionally established your company culture amongst team members?
- Or are you letting your employees dictate the culture?
Ultimately, sales leaders must determine whether they have established systems and processes guided by the company’s core values to hold people accountable to their KPIs, goals, and core values. It’s a delicate balance.
Culture forms whether we choose to cultivate it intentionally or not. If you do not take actions to set the culture within the team deliberately, you’re allowing your sales reps to dictate the culture.
Cultivating a good sales culture requires accountability and transparency, and this starts with making the objective (KPIs, targets) and the subjective (core values) visible to the entire organization.
When salespeople internalize core values, they develop a deep understanding of them and work to cultivate the desired sales culture. Additionally, they are aware that they are held accountable to these core values in the same way they are held responsible for meeting their targets and numbers. More than merely presenting the core values to staff is required for successful adoption and internalization.
Here are some ways to intentionally make core values visible to your sales team:
- Set clear targets
- Make established metrics and tracking measures clear to sales reps
- Establish sales leaderboards visible to the entire team
- Publish and post the core values throughout the organization
- Relate the core values to the customer experience
- Addressing core value violations and breaches
- Directly address core values in team meetings
- Mentorship programs for new team members
- Role play to provide coaching on new sales challenges
- Celebrate sales successes, and culture wins
- Recognize top performers
These team culture practices will foster healthy competition, promote collaboration and improve employee retention. Leadership that cannot provide explicit culture-building examples and practices has likely allowed employees to shape the culture. And most certainly, it is further from the positive sales culture required for company growth.
Sales Accelerator Process
How do you measure company culture in the sales team?
Sales departments love to measure.
Typically, sales organizations measure against objective standards because it’s the most straightforward approach. But sales is the only department to do this. In contrast, leadership, marketing, operations, finance, HR, and admin/IT commonly measure against subjective standards.
Sales performance reviews measure revenue, KPIs, and sales skills & activity. It’s an objective assessment of an individual or the entire organization.
To ensure a successful sales culture, sales leaders must also evaluate sales reps and sales managers subjectively using standardized company values. And they must do this alongside ensuring sales reps meet quota and agreed targets.
Sales leaders can do this as part of their sales coaching, ongoing professional development, team meetings, and during team member performance reviews.
Any violation of core values will result in disciplinary action as per the sales leader’s role.
Always remember, culture will form whether you intentionally create it or not. To enable a consistent culture, you must standardize it across your entire team and company.
Establish the workplace culture you want, and company growth will become much quicker and easier.
How does your sales hiring process reflect company culture?
Hiring criteria usually reflect the company’s mission, values, and culture in most departments, such as HR, marketing, leadership, etc. We seek individuals who share the same mission and values and fit the workplace culture.
Often in sales departments, workplace culture is overlooked. Sales teams need sales talent, but you must ensure new hires align with the company’s core beliefs.
- Does this individual align with our company’s core beliefs?
- What actions show this to be true?
The sales leader role is the most important hire you will make for department culture control. Great leaders value sales culture and actively incorporate culture building as they build out sales teams, sales managers, and individuals.
At the interview stage, addressing culture control and ascertaining the candidate’s leadership capabilities is essential. The candidate should be able to answer questions about team expectations, accountability, crucial conversations, forcing functions, and leadership style.
During the interview, here are some questions to ask yourself about the candidate:
- Will the candidate make it clear what kind of sales culture they want?
- Will the candidate communicate the repercussions of not adhering to the required results?
- Will the candidate hold everyone accountable to the same standard (Results, KPIs, Activity, Core Values, Policies + Procedures, etc.)?
- Will the candidate hold everyone accountable to your standard of success?
- Will the candidate directly address a team member when they don’t honor their commitments?
- Will the candidate measure their success based on their team’s ability to follow through on commitments?
- Will the candidate have direct and frank conversations with their team?
- Will the vibe/intensity/mood be more vibrant and upbeat when the candidate is in the office?
- Will everyone in the company (not just the sales team) respect and want to impress the candidate?
- Is it noticeable in mood, not results, when the candidate isn’t in the office?
- Will people seek validation and approval from the candidate?
Consider how you know your answers to be confirmed before you respond to any of these questions with a definitive “Yes” or “No.” Look for evidence and examples from the candidate to get a strong sense of their capabilities.
Get a Team Assessment
Optimize your sales team with Kolbe and PRINT® assessments to identify team-member strengths and motivators and illuminate bad-fit placements.
How do you enforce sales culture?
All core values and company culture violations should result in disciplinary action. It is the sales leader’s job to enforce these actions. However, for many salespeople and leaders, there is a level of discomfort required to have these tough accountability conversations.
Understand it is these discomfort levels that ultimately prevent progress.
Leadership must reinforce all benchmarks; otherwise, sub-standards become standard, your sales culture will begin redefining itself, and top talent will become sub-talent.
Some existing salespeople will need more core value alignment, and these individuals must realign themselves, or you need to eliminate them.
When a sales representative violates core values, the sales manager should provide a warning, constructive feedback, and a chance for the individual to realign themselves with the values.
However, more significant problems may arise when sales managers or representatives violate their core values while experiencing difficulties achieving their targets. In such situations, it is crucial to start conversations by informing the salesperson of what is known to be accurate and explaining why the salesperson’s actions do not align with the organization’s values.
Avoid asking questions and seeking clarification for individuals with misalignment and poor performance. Instead, seeking feedback from top-performing team members is advisable, as they may provide insights that reveal misalignment in other individuals, management, or processes.
During such conversations, sales managers can ask top-performing sales representatives whether they align with the organization’s sales goals and adhere to its standards and core values. If a sales representative’s response is not a resounding YES, it may be time to transition them out of the organization.
After clarifying expectations and what the salesperson needs to do to maintain employment, the next step is establishing a performance improvement plan. During this stage, the leader must inform the sales representative of what needs to be true over an exact period. This includes showing core value alignment and being a positive sales team member.
There should be no room for negotiation, and if the sales representative fails to meet the expectations outlined in the performance improvement plan, the only option left is to let them go.
At the end of the period, meet with the individual again attentively to evaluate their progress.
Reinforce a Strong Company Culture For Revenue Growth
Creating a strong organizational culture is critical to the success of any sales team. It defines the attitudes, behaviors, and values that drive revenue growth and employee engagement.
A strong sales culture is characterized by teamwork, collaboration, a performance-driven environment, ongoing learning and development, communication and feedback, and celebrating success.
Creating a solid corporate culture requires effort and commitment from leadership and the sales team. Still, the benefits can be significant, including improved sales performance, increased employee engagement and retention, enhanced customer experience, and better decision-making and problem-solving.
You must reinforce a winning culture if you want a successful business or company growth. It is the role of the leadership team and the sales leader to cultivate strong workplace culture in your growth strategy.
You have to be honest and provide candid to the entire sales team. You need to be the gatekeeper in the hiring process and ensure that top talent will also contribute to positive culture cultivation.
We help teams with their growth strategy; close deals faster and at a higher rate. Rose Garden is solutions-focused, using Team Assessment or our Sales Accelerator to provide an in-hand diagnostic, source future leaders, and provide a sales experience roadmap for quick results.
Startups and SMEs must stay up-to-date and ahead of the competition in today’s ever-evolving sales landscape. We provide Founders and CEOs with hands-on coaching, tools, and support to create systems & strategies to scale their sales teams to
You can’t afford to leave anything up to chance.
About the author:
Ali Mirza is the Founder & CEO of Rose Garden, a national sales consulting organization, and featured in Forbes, Inc, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Business Rockstars, and The Wall Street Journal.
Ali is a highly sought-after public speaker presenting at multiple national conferences on innovative ways to accomplish transformational growth on your sales team.
Rose Garden provides unparalleled support and guidance to growth-minded founders via sales strategy differentiation, world-class sales culture creation, and exclusive playbooks, processes, and scripts to position them for limitless growth.