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Lead by example to shape your sales culture

We hear a lot about the importance of sales culture, but how can leaders get it right without falling into the same old traps?

Culture is a buzzword we hear all the time. Every company thinks it has a fantastic sales culture. When they try to attract top talent to their organisations, it’s one of the things they trumpet. And, while some companies do indeed have brilliant sales cultures, where everyone works and achieves together, then celebrates together, many do not. 

So, how can you make sure when you tell your peers about the brilliant sales culture at your company, you actually mean it. Let’s find out.

What is sales culture, really?

Sales culture is the personality of a sales team. It affects everything. Your sales culture will affect the way you treat customers, the way the team interacts and the number of deals you close. A positive, productive culture allows you to attract the A-players that will drive your business forward. It will help you keep the people that got you there. 

Every team has a unique culture and every leader has the power to shape and influence it.

What is it not?

Culture is not something you can dictate. As a leader, you can set the direction for culture, but much of it will be determined by the profiles and behaviours of your individual team members. 

Culture is not something you can just set and forget. It has to be an ongoing process, something you have to maintain and improve. This is one of the traps many leaders fall into. As our friend James Ski from Sales Confidence says, ‘Culture isn’t a ping pong table and a beer tap.’ You can’t just get your team a present and hope for the best.

So if sales culture isn’t perks, what is it?

It’s what you do, not what you are

For me, culture is the values and behaviour that a team demonstrates. As the leader, your job is to direct (not dictate) the culture. You will devise the values and behaviours you want to see. You will communicate them to the team and most importantly, you will live them. It’s all about leading by example: leading with integrity.

What’s your plan?

So, how are you going to bring that all-important positive sales culture into your team.

Make a plan to direct the culture around these five key areas:

  • Vision – share your vision for the company with your team, make sure they know where you are going and buy into it
  • Coaching – help your team discover the way to live their culture for themselves
  • Hiring – when bringing new people into the team, hire for culture fit as well as skills
  • Communication – make communication your number one priority, even if it sometimes feels like you’re over-communicating
  • Team spirit – get the team pulling together for each other. A mix of healthy competition and celebrating success is the best path

But most importantly, set an example. If you don’t live your culture, you can’t expect others to. I recently read an article that said as a sales leader, you should ask yourself whether you’re consciously and constantly leading by example. I think it’s easy to do one or the other, but we find it harder to do both.

As your culture develops from the foundations you have laid, you will reap the rewards: performance, retention, atmosphere and more.