Your Sales Culture Determines Profitability

Guess what the most vibrant, successful companies have in common?

They develop and nurture an intentional, proactive approach to their sales culture.

And their reasons for doing it are pretty obvious. Better sales team → more revenue. It’s not an exaggeration to say your bottom line reflects your sales culture.

Gallup found that engaged sales reps outsell their counterparts. They stay longer with the company and best of all, they promote customer loyalty.

In this article I’m going to show you the 10 habits of a high performing sales culture. And for each one you adopt, your profits will grow accordingly.

sales compensation

Can You Measure Sales Culture?

Wouldn’t be nice if you could score your sales culture. Maybe a number out of a hundred so you know how you’re doing.

Unfortunately a sales culture score doesn’t exist. But you know what’s easy to count? Staff turnover.

A good sign you’ve got a great sales culture is when your sales reps don’t leave.

Hubspot notes that sales has a turnover rate that’s TRIPLE the average for other industries. That’s insane! Believe it or not, if your sales staff turnover rate is below 30% per year, then you’re actually beating the averages.

People stay at companies where they feel like their contributions are appreciated. And where they are growing both as a person and in their career.

And that’s what sales culture is all about – creating an environment that drives company objectives. While simultaneously being the place sales reps want to grow their career.

Here are the 10 habits you need to adopt to make that happen.

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Hire Salespeople Early & Slowly

New hires take an unbelievable amount of energy to get up to full performance.

And that energy has to come from somewhere.

You might think it’s just the sales manager that’s suffering every time a new hire needs to be trained. But it’s everyone else, too.

Think about it. If the sales manager is spending all their time recruiting and onboarding new staff then who’s supporting the performers?

Yeah, no one. And if your top performers feel like you don’t have the availability to support them, then they’ll leave, too.

So what to do?

Well, you know you are going to need new sales reps at some point. So decide if you want to train someone internally, or bring in new blood.

When you need a new sales rep, there’s usually some urgency about it. But the problem is most of the time you’re better off hiring no one than the wrong one. The right salesperson will come along eventually. But it won’t be on your preferred schedule.

So start hiring BEFORE you actually need someone. It’ll make your life a TON easier.

By hiring in advance you’ll have the luxury to hire slowly. You can find reps that get along with everyone and are a great fit for your organization.

And when the time comes to replace a sales rep you’ll have a fully trained salesperson ready to start.

Establish A Career Path

In the point above we noted that finding high performance salespeople on demand is tough. Really, really tough.

You know what’s easy? Promoting top performers who are ready for more responsibility.

Do this by giving your salespeople a career path within your organization.

One of the biggest complaints about sales is the career path isn’t linear. By establishing a hierarchical path your salespeople get career goals to pursue.

For example, they may get hired as an SDR and spend most of their time doing data research and appointment setting. Later they can get promoted to a client facing role as an Account Executive. Eventually they can work up to a more senior managerial role.

For the salesperson, this is perfect because they don’t get more responsibility than they can handle.

And training for the next role is gradual and organic.

And it works well for the company, too. You aren’t trying to hire someone who can magically do everything in your sales department. Instead, you are promoting people who already know your internal culture. And have already trained to take the next step at a relaxed pace.

The best thing about promoting from within is access to talent. It’s a LOT easier to find staff who are qualified for entry level positions. Bring them onboard and train them up until all your sales roles are full.

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Align Sales & Company Culture

Your sales culture has to align with your company’s overall culture.

Yeah, that sounds pretty obvious.

But it’s easy for salespeople to feel like the values and ethos your company claims to embrace isn’t real.

Imagine the CEO makes lofty statements like, “Your satisfaction is our purpose.”

And the VP of Sales tells her team, “Don’t give up on an opportunity until you’ve asked for the deal 30 times.”

You can see how the sales team might feel like the company’s values aren’t reflected in the sales process.

Your sales team is the first point of contact your clients have with your company. So your salespeople can’t just believe in the company’s mission. They need to actively demonstrate your company’s values in action.

Meet with your sales team and review your company’s values. And look for ways to translate those concepts into tangible action.

When your salespeople are living your ideals in their daily work they’ll believe they’re real. And so will your clients!

Ban Discounting

If your salespeople are selling your solution for a penny less than full price, they need to stop. (Or you may need to change your pricing).

Discounting on sales is a major issue because it undermines the company on many levels.

A 10% reduction in price could represent a 50% loss of profit. And that’s not cool.

More importantly, the practice of discounting teaches your sales staff the wrong lessons. They’ll learn that your solution doesn’t have strong value relative to the price point. Which will compromise their ability to sell your solution.

If your client can expect to save $10,000 a year using your solution, it’s not crazy to ask for $150 per month. And your sales team needs to know this is true.

So prohibit discounting from your sales team. The extra profits will enable your company to grow. Which benefits everyone, including sales.

And a sales culture that puts profit first will teach your sales team to trust in the value of your solution.

Be Purpose-Driven

Our lives pretty much revolve around work. We spend more time working than any other single activity. Heck, you probably see your work-mates more than your spouse.

Given how central work is to our lives, it has to have meaning. It has to be more than showing up and knocking out some emails. There needs to be a purpose.

Work with your sales team to refine your mission, or purpose. It could be the same as the company’s mission-statement. Or you could create your own. It can be idealistic or grounded in reality. It doesn’t matter – it just needs to be real to your team.

PWC found that companies where purpose is clearly communicated have significantly more engagement. This leads to longer staff retention, and higher profits.
When refining your mission, go beyond inspiring platitudes. Look for ways your sales team can express those values in their day to day work. When your team feels like they are living a bigger mission they’ll see more value in their work.

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Mandate Personal Development

Everyone wants to be better tomorrow than they were yesterday. It’s human nature.

But in the daily crush of never ending emails and Zoom calls it’s easy to forget we crave growth.

It’s a bit like the old expression, ‘If you don’t move forward, sooner or later you begin to move backward.’ If your sales reps don’t feel like they are improving then they’ll feel like they are stagnating. And they’ll leave as a way to keep their learning curve improving.

So make personal development a requirement at your company. It can even be a formal KPI that’s tied to compensation. Why wouldn’t you pay better trained staff more?!

The nice thing about training is both the company, and the employee win. The more formal expertise your team gets in your industry, the better they’ll be able to sell your solutions.

As your team becomes more expert in your subject matter their confidence will increase. This creates a never-ending loop of success. The combination of knowledge and confidence leads to more sales. Which in turn creates more confidence.

Ideally, you want your training to include a mix of sales and industry programs. The sales programs will teach them to add value to the company’s bottom line. And the industry courses will help them add real value to your clients. You can’t have one without the other!

Use 3rd party course providers that are recognized in your industry. This will give your team formal certificates that ‘prove’ their place as a professional in your industry.

Celebrate Leading Indicators

An interesting thing about sales is that it has both leading and lagging indicators.

Lagging indicators look at the actual results achieved. This refers to metrics like closing ratio, or revenue generated.

Leading indicators refer to metrics that are generally predictive of a sale. For example, dials made, or proposals sent out. The more proposals you make to qualified prospects, the more likely you are to make a sale.

Over short periods of time, leading indicators may not be predictive of end results. But over longer periods, the law of averages kicks in. And better leading metrics invariably create stronger revenue results.

Leading indicators can play a hugely important role in your sales culture. For one thing, when there is a decrease in leading metrics you immediately know your deliverables are in jeopardy. This gives you time to course-correct.

When sales managers focus exclusively on outcomes there’s limited recognition of effort. A salesperson might work crazy-hard on a deal, only to see it fall apart for reasons beyond their control.

Do they deserve no recognition at all for their efforts? Of course not!

And that’s why leading indicators are so important. They give you reasons to recognize and celebrate your team.

Did Jon just hit a new personal-best for dials made? Celebrate his milestone.

Is Jenny leading the pack for proposals sent out? Make an announcement so everyone can see what she’s accomplished.

Recognition makes your company a place that people want to stay. After all, recognition is a basic tenant of work satisfaction. When you appreciate someone’s efforts, they’ll enjoy their work more. And be less inclined to seek approval elsewhere.

Salespeople are competitive, so celebrating effort pays huge dividends for the company. If Sally is getting public recognition for most dials made then Billy may be motivated to surpass her. This results in more sales for the team.

Public celebration of milestones is also important because it creates a mental anchor for the rest of your sales team.

Think of it this way. Before mid 1954 it was believed to be impossible for a human to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. But after Roger Bannister cracked this physical barrier the impossible was suddenly very possible. His world record lasted just 46 days before it was broken again. Almost overnight the 4 minute mile went from being an achievement to becoming a qualifying time.

Similarly, imagine Jenny is being publicly cheered for sending out 12 proposals in a month. That number becomes the minimum that other salespeople want to achieve. As new records get achieved then the sales team will naturally gravitate to those higher benchmarks.

Practice To Win

Professional athletes are the best in the world in their respective sports. And while sports like karate and soccer are very different, the athletes have one thing in common.

They practice.

Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success popularized the idea that 10,000 hours of focused study can make you truly great at something. And while the number is debatable, the underlying idea holds true. As they say, practice makes perfect.

If you want your sales team to be spectacular at sales, they need to do deliberate practice.

Your team should already be taking formal sales courses. But there’s no point spending a bundle of time and money on learning if you aren’t going to apply the knowledge. Sales practice gives your team the chance to refine the skill sets they learned in formal sales classes. And they can do it in a supportive environment.

Practicing gives your team a chance to work on their active listening skills. Prospects want to feel like you have a complete understanding of their requirements. And that only happens when you really dig into what they are saying. Active listening isn’t an easy or intuitive skill set, so work on it.

Objections are part and parcel of being in sales. But what do you do when you encounter an objection you’ve never had before? Practicing gives salespeople the opportunity to address all the most common sales objections. Many sales objections reflect a lack of trust, so those issues can be practiced as well.

Finally, practicing gives your team an informal way to share their experience. And as everyone contributes their knowledge, patterns emerge. And it’s these patterns that tell you what is really important for you to focus on to bring in new deals.

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Have The Tough Conversations

Make accountability a part of your sales culture.

And while that may sound easy, it’s not. True accountability means having some pretty uncomfortable conversations with the sales team.

But don’t shy away from the hard discussions. Everyone wins when you embrace ownership of outcomes and activity.

Start by establishing exactly what outcomes are expected from the team. And what each person’s share of revenue generation should be. Your salespeople need to ‘own’ that chunk of revenue. And they need to understand that without it, the company can’t function properly.

Monitor their daily and weekly activities. Focus on leading KPIs like calls made, and proposals delivered. If a salesperson starts falling behind on these tasks they’re easy to spot.

Meet with your salespeople on a regular basis to review their pipeline. Be a bit of a skeptic during this process. Question how ‘solid’ a deal is looking. And dig into the particulars of the deal. You may discover that your salesperson has too many eggs in a single basket. Or they are overly optimistic about the chances of a deal getting signed.

Accountability Works Both Ways

Ownership of the pipeline flows up the corporate ladder, not downwards.

Sales managers need to take responsibility if their sales team comes up short. Accountability isn’t just for the salespeople. It’s for the sales managers, too.

This is critical for your sales culture as it shows your team the leadership has ‘skin in the game.’

Sales managers need to map out potential points of failure for their results. And then prepare for those outcomes in advance. The boss doesn’t care if things didn’t go smoothly. They want strong results, irrespective of the reasons.

What will happen if your top salesperson leaves suddenly? How are you preparing for that eventuality?

What happens if the marketing team drops the ball? Will sales be able to recover? The last thing you want is for your team’s results to be entirely dependent upon another division.

So give some thought to how you will ensure there is an adequate pipeline at all times. And take ownership of the target outcomes. Your salespeople will appreciate your investment in their success.

Strong Sales Culture Is A Habit

So which of these habits for a powerful sales culture have you already adopted? Does your sales team appreciate your investment in their success.

Are there any habits you aren’t doing that this article has inspired you to try? I’d love to hear how it goes!

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Matthew Murray
Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray is the Managing Director of Sales Higher. He knows any company can THRIVE with enough qualified sales leads. So he’s spent the last decade helping companies meet engaged prospects and win new deals.

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