9 Ways to Build a Positive Sales Culture

A healthy sales culture helps to drive sales and attract top talent.

Your company’s sales culture can make or break your business. When a sales culture is healthy and present, it can attract leading talent to your sales force and help your team feel content and engaged in the office setting. Of course, a more motivated sales team with a shared vision and sales strategy will result in more sales success and boost the company’s bottom line. 

What is a sales culture, and why is it important?

The term "sales culture" encompasses the attitudes, values and habits shared among the members of your sales department. A winning sales culture can usually be summarized in just a handful of words that describe your sales force’s values.

Though seemingly an abstract concept, a positive sales culture can prove vital for turning every member of your sales department into a sales leader. Experts say a positive sales culture increases sales reps’ buy-in and professional development while improving overall team dynamics. The sales culture defines how salespeople are expected to interact with one another and your potential customers. Without a clearly delineated, positive sales culture, no sales strategy is complete, and sales success may be limited.

What makes a successful sales team?

The hallmarks of a successful sales team extend beyond what can be taught in sales coaching. A successful sales team does the following:

  • Has charisma. An uninteresting group of sales reps will struggle to make sales.
  • Spends ample time with customers. Customers may be more likely to purchase your product if they feel properly attended to.
  • Continues to learn. A major part of sales is learning about the market, the customer base and any new challenges your existing and prospective customers are facing.
  • Sets a structured sales target and sticks to it. Firmly outlined goals and methods, with room for some flexibility, make for a consistent sales experience.
  • Holds team members accountable to individual goals and the team’s shared vision. In a winning sales culture, working with the team’s boundaries is key.
  • Communicates well within the sales team, within the entire company and outside the company. As in any field, proper communication ensures that people receive any information, ideas and data they might need.
  • Manages time excellently. Sales work can get busy, but a sales team always knows how to divide and conquer.
  • Makes promises they can keep. Dropping the ball or overextending oneself is a common (but easily avoidable) mistake.
  • Celebrates hitting key performance indicator (KPI) targets. Positive reinforcement is a crucial component of a winning sales culture.

There are very obvious signs the culture in your sales organization is not positive, and a negative sales culture can damage your business. Signs that you need to rethink your sales culture include high sales representative turnover, resentment and rivalries among the reps, poor employee attitudes toward a sales manager or people in other management positions and a general lack of interest in camaraderie.   

How do you develop a sales culture?

Here are nine ways to build a positive sales culture. 

Hire salespeople slowly and deliberately.

For many fast-growing companies that suddenly have a need for salespeople, it’s tempting to hire anyone with the qualifications. Many organizations do this with the thought of churning through salespeople until they find those who can produce. However, settling for someone who is simply adequate but not the best fit can actually kill your sales culture. Take your time, and create an "anatomy of the perfect salesperson" for your product and target customer.

Make a checklist of the characteristics that a salesperson will need to have in order to create a cohesive sales organization and be able to communicate your company vision to potential customers. For some sales organizations, teamwork is a top characteristic that salespeople need. With this in mind, human resources may look for recent grads who were collegiate athletes and know how to work as a team to achieve goals. As a leadership team, work through defining your sales culture and the characteristics your salespeople would need to embody to work within that culture. 

Monitor the daily activity of salespeople.

A nurse or doctor wouldn’t merely glance at you and give you a diagnosis; they would run some tests, analyze your situation, explain to you what is going on and suggest a treatment plan. It’s vital you do the same for your sales team. Take a metrics-based approach to managing your sales team, but don’t let those metrics stand in the way of genuine human interaction, positive reinforcement and the charisma needed for any excellent sales team.

Having a deep understanding of the sales pipeline all the way through the closing of deals gives sales leaders the data they need to make adjustments that lead to increased productivity and, ultimately, happier teams. For example, a sales manager who looks at a KPI and can use this metric to kindly encourage behavioral changes among their sales reps can easily foster a positive sales culture.

Additionally, technology that simplifies customer relationship management and workflow automation can streamline mundane tasks. This gives sales organizations the freedom to listen to their customers’ needs, creating a responsive sales culture. 

Acknowledge both successes and failures. 

It’s crucial to celebrate when your team hits a sales goal they were working hard to achieve, as doing so will help to build a strong sales team that’s willing to go the extra mile to achieve goals. But talking both positively and constructively about failures is essential, too. While it’s a good idea to take the team to celebrate a great month or quarter, it’s also imperative to address issues if your sales team didn’t quite meet their goal. Don’t berate the team if sales aren’t as high as you hoped, but talk through any challenges the team is facing to improve sales results the next month. Creating a culture of learning, understanding and growing can help encourage a positive sales culture. 

Drum up some healthy competition. 

It’s a smart plan to stir up some competition among your sales representatives in a fun way. Make sure you eliminate and avoid negative behavior and encourage your reps to cheer one another on. Create sales contests that compel the sales reps to work diligently, and ensure the stakes are not too high – you don’t want them to feel resentful. It’s natural for reps to compete to see who sells the most, but it’s also smart to focus on the team as a whole as everyone works toward a common goal. 

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