Your organization has a unique culture. Good or bad, planned or not, it does. And as a leader, it’s your responsibility to lead by example and help shape the company culture.
So, how do you know if you’re doing the right things as a leader to make your sales culture an asset, rather than a liability? As a head of sales and senior leader, these are questions I get asked a lot.
Let’s look at how you can begin crafting your sales culture to transform your results and make your sales team that much sharper.
Sales Culture Is About More Than Office Perks
I have chosen to make a career in tech, and as you’d expect, there are a lot of perks that go along with it: a beer fridge in the office, casual dress (as long as I’m not visiting clients!), catered lunches, happy hours, team events, you name it.
But, when I’m hiring, any time a candidate focuses on these perks during an interview, I can’t help but view it as a knock against them.
Maybe I’m just sensitive to the “bro culture” stereotype, but it seems that we’ve taken this wonderful lever for team building, productivity, and engagement (our culture), and allowed the free beer to blind us from its real meaning.
It’s time to take a sober look at what culture really means.
Culture Starts at The Top
Culture is best when set at the top — either by the CEO, VP Sales, or office leader — but it can be influenced by anyone, at any level, and at any time. It’s a living, breathing thing, and as such, it needs to be monitored and managed at all times.
As the leader (whether formal or otherwise), it’s your responsibility to ensure that the messages you send and the experiences you create are shaping the cultural outcomes and norms that you want. If you don’t, you’ll quickly find yourself living in a world you didn’t intend or design.
The best way to do this is by consciously and constantly asking yourself if you are leading by example.
Are you demonstrating “what good looks like” and providing positive feedback when your team is acting in ways that reinforce those values?
How do you handle it when reps or colleagues start detracting from desired behaviors?
Culture Requires Direction and Integrity
It’s easier than you may think to get culture wrong.
For example, have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone colored outside the lines on a deal — yet received praise from senior leadership (and maybe even yourself)?
I’m not referring to anything illegal. I’m talking about things like over-promising resources to clients to get them to sign, or working clients outside of one’s territory.
This happens far too often, and the negative impact on overall morale can be devastating. This can cause other members of the team and the organization to feel taken advantage of, or they may feel like they weren’t given a fair chance.
Perhaps you’ve communicated a certain goal or direction to your team but then took actions that undermined its importance.
For example, stating that high activity levels and maintaining profit margins are “top priority” this year, but then awarding Rep of the Quarter to someone who only worked inbound leads or continually discounted below acceptable levels just to “take the deal.”
Both of these scenarios may be well-intentioned, but they’ll ultimately call your integrity as a leader into question and likely aren’t worth the tradeoff.
To develop the culture you want, you need to be clear on what the goal is and consistent in how you enforce those values.
Create a Roadmap
How do you actually create a positive culture?
At its core, it comes down to understanding the organization’s values — both where they are today and where you’d like them to go — and setting clearly defined objectives for the people and processes within it.
You need to determine what attributes you look for in your AEs, SDRs, and extended team members (SEs, CSMs, etc.), and how will you recognize the positives and fix the negatives.
What are the core processes you want your team to follow (prospecting, deal execution, rules of engagement, etc.) and how do you correct when things go off course?
Don’t Force It
Attempting to force a culture fit by lifting a set of values from one company to another, or even from one team to another, without understanding the history and makeup of that team is almost surely a recipe for failure.
Culture change may start with senior leadership, but culture is more than just senior leadership. Culture is made up of everyone’s values and beliefs.
Culture change isn’t about forcing something onto your company, and it’s not about faking it until you make it. You need to convince your organization to choose your culture.
It is on you to steer the ship, but be careful to understand the dynamics at play before you reach for the wheel.
Set the Example
At the end of the day, creating a dynamic sales culture comes down to the example that you, as a leader, set for your team and whether your actions are aligned with your words.
This isn’t always easy — especially when dealing with unfavorable situations or having to deliver bad news — but those “hard” times are amazing opportunities to create real trust and transparency with your team. And once you have trust, then you’re ready to seed some real transformation that may just take your team and results to the next level.