By: Shabri Lakhani
There are varying perspectives on what makes a great sales team culture. From extreme competitiveness to collaboration and knowledge sharing, every organization has its own approach, generally predicated on the sales manager’s philosophies and experiences. At SalesWorks, we know a thing or two about what a successful sales team looks like, because we’ve been building them for years. While each team will undoubtedly bring its own flavor and personality, we’ve found a couple of shared attributes across organizations and geographies that make for a successful culture.
Commitment to Shared Learning
The best sales teams have a culture that is based on the principle of continuous growth. A team that is not learning is not improving. Regular training sessions are key to ensuring that your team is not only continually developing new skills, but is continually challenged and stimulated at work. Without this culture of professional development and engagement, you can expect high churn rates and low productivity, no matter how talented your reps are.
Although each team has its superstars, it is important that you promote shared and collaborative learning instead of siloed professional development. Every team member should be invested in the organization’s success as a whole, and that team mentality should be recognized and rewarded. Without this approach, salespeople will keep winning strategies and approaches to themselves, preventing others from learning from their successes. While healthy competition is needed in any sales team environment (more of this later), it’s important for sales managers to frame knowledge sharing as a key performance indicator.
Friendly competition is key to motivating sales teams to do their best. Salespeople, in general, tend to be hungry and naturally competitive, so the best managers are able to harness that trait in order to create a high-performing environment. However, the operative word is “friendly”. A 2019 study conducted by The Muse found that 43% of employees would leave their company if the work environment became too competitive. We’ve seen many organizations create hyper-competitive environments that prevent knowledge sharing and limit data visibility because salespeople are so focused on keeping the “secret sauce” to themselves.
Teams that strike the right balance tend to focus on rewarding stellar performance instead of punishing the rest of the team. Competitions are set up with realistic targets and are focused on prizes and recognition for winners. When a salesperson reaches a target or wins a competition, they are expected to share the approach (channels, messaging, personas, etc.) that made the difference so that the team as a whole can improve the following month or quarter.
We’re talking about successful sales team cultures here, but if there’s one trait that is common across all unsuccessful sales teams, it’s a lack of visibility and transparency. This goes for periods of high performance as well as slumps. If your team isn’t sharing strategies and logging all communications in the CRM, it will be very difficult to replicate success from one rep to another. And, if you’ve created a hyper-competitive environment, your reps may not be forthcoming with bad news, creating the illusion that your pipeline is fuller than it actually is.
A study by ProofHub found that although 99.1% of people prefer a workplace where people identify and discuss issues truthfully and effectively, only 50% say their organizations actually do so. Talking about mistakes and failures is difficult, and it’s understandable why salespeople would want to gloss over poor performance, especially when mistakes are met with immediate repercussions.
Promoting transparency is as much about culture as it is about process. On the culture front, make sure your reps know that mistakes are bound to happen. As long as they are forthcoming, and raise concerns as soon as they happen so that they don’t get repeated, they should be rewarded instead of punished. On the process side, sales managers need to be adamant about proper CRM usage. Every conversation must be logged in order to promote full visibility and develop a strong dataset.
Clear Evaluation and Continuous Improvement Framework:
As with any team, having a common goal and vision is absolutely critical. It can be easy to fall into a daily routine, with everyone focusing on that day’s activity numbers or that month’s quota, but what does it all mean? What are they working towards?
It’s important to frame the team and organization’s success as the rep’s success. If they meet their targets, that means either additional compensation or professional growth, or both. Cultures that promote a “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality tend to perform much better than those that push quotas and goals from the top down.
How were those goals reached? What are the organization’s macro objectives? How do those objectives align with the rep’s ability to grow within the company? These are questions that should be asked and answered routinely in order to foster a common vision and boost morale.
Building a successful sales culture is difficult, especially when your team consists of young, inexperienced reps. It takes a lot of energy, coaching, and strategic foresight to create the type of environment that motivates high performance without breeding toxicity or churn. At SalesWorks, we’ve found that if the four attributes above are actively being worked on, success is only a dial away.