How To Create A Winning Sales Culture

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Yesterday during training with a client, we had a great conversation about culture. I asked, “How can you tell if you’re walking into a bad sales culture?” Check out some of their answers:

“It’s quiet.”

“No one is celebrating.”

“Managers are all behind their desks.”

“You just feel the negative energy.”

“You see people whispering.”

SO TRUE, right? I’ve walked onto sales floors like these. Once I even asked, “Where’s the sales floor?” only to find out I was in the middle of it. It’s easy to spot a bad culture, but it’s not so easy to pinpoint exactly how to build a great culture. There are no shortcuts to building a great culture but you can fast-track it by focusing on three areas.

Pick the Right Sales Director

We’ve all had incredibly good sales managers and leaders that lead with their analytical natures. They’re more operationally focused. These folks can absolutely excel, but alone at the top, they won’t drive a high-energy, celebratory, fun place to work. Simply put, don’t put an operations head in charge of sales.

Find Smaller Wins

We all want to feel successful. When we have a chance to win every day or two at work, we feel good about going back to work. When BDR teams only celebrate the appointment, that means I get about 2 wins a week out of 200 grind-my-soul calls. Find more small wins and celebrate them. 

Reward Behaviors

When we celebrate dials, we get a sweatshop (and not great conversations). When we celebrate KPIs (especially leading-indicator KPIs) we get quality + activity = better performance. But when we celebrate behaviors, we get more people doing the right things to win. Let me tell you the story.

A few years ago I was touring a local inside sales operation. I saw hungry happy reps, gongs on the floor, rep pictures commemorated in black velvet on the walls (President’s Club winners), and then I came to a room loaded with axes. The leader explained:

“Top sellers are commemorated in velvet, but the Axe is our ultimate award. Every month, the managers come together to tell their stories and pick one rep who deserves this high honor. The winner is a rep who had to chop and hack her way out of a bad situation – maybe a negative start to the month and come back on top. It shows grit, determination, passion, and an unwillingness to quit…and those are behaviors we celebrate here.”

I still get goosebumps when I tell the story. Nope, can’t measure these but this is what builds an amazing culture and high-performing teams. 

Align Your Screens

Celebration monitors are great, but like most systems, they’re garbage in, garbage out. We all know that activity metrics motivate no one and that if you ask for a dial…well, you get a dial. The magic is in the KPIs and the selling ratios. I talk to a lot of leaders who get that now…but No one told the guy uploading the screens on the floor. If stack-ranked activity metrics are 50% of what you’re celebrating, your culture will suffer.

Activate Your Managers

Yes, we all know that what gets measured gets done. But how do you pinpoint a sales culture?

I can quickly define a sales team’s culture by what I see managers talking about and where they spend their time.

Most managers will agree that KPIs and behaviors are important, but when we listen on the floor we hear, “I need twenty more dials before lunch, everyone!” Mismatch. This is a metrics-driven culture. Bet they have high attrition.

Likewise, managers will agree that coaching is critical. But when observed unaware, I don’t see them out from behind their desks. They can talk the talk but they’re literally not walking the Walk. How your managers spend their time and their voice are the loudest indicators to their teams and the rest of the organization of what is important to them. 

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