Are you a manager in a company that develops and sells products or services? No matter what industry you are in, if your company produces items for retail or manufacturing markets, or if you sell professional services like legal, executive search, and accounting, you recognize that your sales team is a critical component to your success.
When the sales team is running on all four cylinders, and meeting – or exceeding – targets, the company benefits in many ways. Morale is high, and profits are up, stakeholders and investors are happy. Management is thrilled.
If you operate in a service or sales-oriented company, you should not just depend on the sales team alone to maintain the buoyancy and spirit you need to succeed as a business. As a good manager, you can create a selling culture within your company that can inspire all employees to do their best. One of the best ways to ensure that you are hiring employees that will help you achieve your vision is to make sure your employee value proposition is clearly laid out to attract top talent.
Can you define the culture of your business? Your culture reflects what you stand for, what you value and what you aspire to achieve, wrote Timo Rein in Entrepreneur.com.
Rein cited the following strategies to build a sales culture that will help drive success:
- Hire for the right culture fit – Make sure that the people you hire are those who believe in your mission and are team players. If you are selling executive search services, make sure the people you hire understand the human resources field and the components for making the right hires.
- Encourage learning and development – Understand your team members’ strengths and weaknesses and establish key performance indicators (KPIs) around these to maintain a focus on improvement. Employees will appreciate feeling valued. Whether you are selling accounting or legal services, the staff can benefit from professional training.
- Build a strong team – Make sure that the team shares information, communicates well, and can appreciate each other’s successes and challenges. Take time out for fun team-building activities, such as get-togethers on Friday night or softball on the weekend.
- Celebrate all types of contributions – Recognize good performance. When a team member hits his numbers, celebrate. Make client retention a priority, not just hitting the sales targets. If you are a legal firm and a certain department, e.g. Family Law, has done a great job over several years retaining clients, recognize it.
- If you fail, fail fast! Make sure your team knows that failure is OK – provided that it happens fast, and that they learn from it. Analyze the factors that failed. Such analysis can lead to more wins in the future.
- Inspire passion and trust – Share your company’s long-term goals with your team. Make sure the communication is excellent in your organization, and that people are excited and passionate about what they are selling.
Empower your team
All of the strategies that Rein cited are ways of empowering your team. Here are other ways to give them the tools and power to succeed:
- Make sure your team trusts each other, and that this respect permeates throughout the company.
- Celebrate the ethic of hard work and persistence, even in the face of sales rejections.
- Listen to suggestions from your team about how to improve the sales process: whether that means broadening the targets, offering incentives, or focusing on a particular type of customer. Salespeople who are on the front lines know what works.
- Reinforce best practices, and focus on what your people are doing right, not the misses. Give reinforcement not only to salespeople, but to the employees in engineering, IT, inventory, shipping, and throughout the business.
Create growth-oriented employees
Growth-oriented employees are those who are aware of the company’s current performance and dedicated to seeing that improve. Growth-oriented employees recognize the value of hitting sales targets and do everything they can, within their respective roles, to make this possible.
Growth-oriented employees want to see the company succeed. You want to create a culture that nurtures growth-oriented employees, and this goes beyond sharing what the company’s quarterly targets are.
In the Harvard Business Review, author Tony Schwartz described a growth-oriented culture:
- An environment that feels safe fueled first by top by leaders willing to model vulnerability and take personal responsibility for their shortcomings and missteps.
- A focus on continuous learning through inquiry, curiosity, and transparency, in place of judgment, certainty, and self-protection.
- Time-limited, manageable experiments with new behaviors to test our unconscious assumption that changing the status quo is dangerous and likely to have negative consequences.
- Continuous feedback — up, down and across the organization – grounded in a shared commitment to helping each other grow and get better.
Taking Schwartz’s advice, do you believe that your employees feel safe in your company, and know that the business leaders will take responsibility for any missteps?
Does your company provide continuous learning for its workers?
Does the business do experiments with new behaviors to test the status quo? Is the company open to risk-taking and innovation in order to encourage growth?
Is the company open to feedback up and down the ranks? Are managers willing to listen to each employee and validate her ideas when she has solutions to problems or creative ways of selling?
If you create an environment that challenges and nurtures your employees and liberates their energy to perform, regardless of your industry, you will create a selling culture. Whether you are an executive search firm, a hotel, or a manufacturing plant, recognize that when your employees grow, so does your business. As Kes Thygesen stated in Entreprenur.com, it is also important to engage employees in management’s decision-making and to encourage talent mobility. Let employees know that good performance today means promotions and advancement tomorrow.
A culture that is open to learning, advancement, and that rewards employees for their engagement in decisions, is one that is a selling culture. Everyone will benefit, and you will see the positive results on your bottom line.