What’s a sales culture and how do I get one?

Building a strong sales culture is critical to building a successful business. But it’s much easier said than done. Sales culture isn’t really about sales; it comes from a combination of leadership and teamwork. In this blog post, we’re exploring ‘what’s a sales culture and how can you build one in your business?’.

Perhaps the most important thing to recognise with sales culture is that you can’t buy one.

Think of those professional sports teams that buy in high-profile players who turn out to be flops. Without a team shape and winning mindset the results just won’t come.

It’s like that with sales culture.

It’s something you nurture, nudge and tweak over time, polishing it with each passing year and new recruit.

If you’re a gardener you’ll understand this. Step by step you nurture seedlings, turning fragile stems into mature trees. All of it part of a grand plan that makes up a thriving whole.

Success like this can’t really be rushed, demanded or instructed. It’s more a case of giving people (or plants) the right environment in which they can be their magnificent best.

What are the three most important rules in building a sales culture?

1. Your sales culture isn’t about Sales.

At least, it’s not just about people with the word “sales” in their job title. Few things drive us as mad as hearing that anything to do with customers is “the job of sales”.

Everybody’s job is about sales. Whether you’re in marketing generating leads, or in finance creating swift payment and resolving invoice queries.

If you’re not part of a company’s sales culture then you’re just an overhead in the business.

If people in your business think this way then everybody will be seeking out ways to create a better customer experience.

Everyone will be able to celebrate customer successes, big orders, market share increases and 5* reviews online.

Contrast the buzz that a business operating this way has compared to one where you “think sales and marketing don’t get on”. It’s chalk and cheese.

2. Your sales culture is about the boss

You might be thinking: Yes, that’s OK in practice but it wouldn’t work in my company. And you might be right.

It’s possible to run a business where customer relationships are just handed down to the sales team. That team might be both talented and motivated, but it limits the sales culture.

Everybody in sales has experienced the “sales prevention” department. In some companies it’s the inordinate number of approval signatures needed to get a deal over the line.

In other places it’s marketing generating leads that can’t be converted, or launching products without samples and customer materials.

Wherever the sales prevention department sits it creates friction. Friction in the seamless experience your customer needs, and that’s why it limits your sales culture.

This can only be fixed from the top. It’s the job of the boss.

And crucially, it’s not created by what the boss says, but by what they do.

When the boss clears space in the diary when there’s a customer problem it sends out a message. If they respond promptly to phone calls or emails that too sets a standard.

When you hear a business owner talk about sales and customer experience as a strategic goal you start to believe it. If they use sales as measures of success and bonus criteria then you know they’re serious.

3. Your sales culture is about trust

When you have a buzzing sales culture you instantly know there’s trust in the team.

The boss trusts people in the business to get on with their jobs, and people across the business trust each other to do the best by customers. You win together.

What are some of the components of this trust?

  • People need to know there is common purpose and shared goals. This goes back to being clear that it’s part of everyone’s job to deliver a great customer experience.
  • Roles and responsibilities need to be defined. This is about ways of working and knowing who will do what when a customer complaint comes in, or when a special delivery is requested on a Saturday. Who does what?
  • Dispute resolution. You’ll need this as part of your customer service, but internally it’s a critical part of sales culture. How are disagreements resolved: Do people escalate “moans” to the boss, or is there a defined way of working out solutions as a team?

You’ll conclude from this blog that sales culture is almost intangible. Like that well-laid out garden it follows that it’s bigger than the sum of its parts.

But chat to employees and customers and you’ll know when you’ve got one. And you’ll often be told in no uncertain terms when you haven’t.

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