Recently a CEO said that he won’t place too much emphasis on sales goals this year because he can see where the market is headed. Instead they’ll focus on where to cut costs and adjust their manufacturing processes to be more efficient. Yes, a CEO said they will not put much emphasis on sales goals. Guess what? If he doesn’t emphasize sales, neither will his sales team.
Top leadership sets the stage for the corporate culture. Even one year of corporate initiatives that don’t include selling and serving your customers as a key focus will have a negative impact on business growth. Companies without customer-focused sales cultures typically don’t perform as well as those that do.
It’s not just one CEO with this sentiment; I’ve heard many executives tell a similar story:
- We’re not investing in training our people this year; we need to work on infrastructure.
- We don’t have budget to spend on upgrading our skills or hiring stronger people because our margins are squeezed and our priority is keeping the customers we have.
- We’re investing heavily in product improvement to win against our competition.
- We’ve had to implement a new computer, manufacturing, CRM system, etc. and we need time to get that operational and people using it before we task them with personal development.
It is an interesting focus, ignoring the people part of sustainability and only focusing on processes and things for a year or more. It makes me crazy! Why? Because I’ve seen what happens with those initiatives, and how much they don’t make a REAL difference in the companies’ ability to survive, let alone grow.
Leaders who drive these corporate cultures don’t get it. It’s your people who drive company growth, customer loyalty, and sales. It’s not the machines, software, or market. While those things support the actions, conversations, and attitudes of your people, it’s your people who make the sales that are the business. If your culture isn’t supported by initiatives that focus on sales…a lot of time, energy, money, and people are lost.
There are Consequences for Allowing Your Sales Culture to Stagnate
A Fortune 500 company put all training and development of their associates on hold for 18 months because they were implementing a new database system. Millions of dollars were poured into the system, the implementation, etc. Nothing was put into setting the stage for the people who would use the system to prepare them for the impending change, for helping them understand the value of the system, and how to upgrade their skills to use the information within the database to sell or serve better.
Two years later, they abandoned the use of the system and those millions of dollars, many sales opportunities, and associates were gone with nothing to show for it.
A Proactive Shift to Sales Culture Pays Off
On the other hand, a client of ours was facing a serious business dilemma… expenses were outpacing sales growth, profitability was declining, and morale was low because the employees didn’t feel like much was being done to address any of the issues.
Working with the executives, we applied our sales enablement approach to begin the culture shift to one of a high performing sales organization.
The process started with a salesforce audit to identify the opportunity for growth, the barriers to achieve the growth, and short term priorities to turn it around.
What was fascinating to many on the team was the order we suggested they tackle their opportunities for strengthening a sales culture:
- First, identify the processes (WHAT) for generating leads, moving sales through the pipeline, and serving the accounts efficiently after sale.
- Equip the entire company to accept, initiate, and act on changes to ready them for not only the changes we saw coming, but ones they might identify as necessary as well (WHY).
- Implement behavior-change training (HOW) to equip each person to be most skillful in their role. From management to customer service, each person skilled up. This included hiring skills, coaching skills, sales skills, customer service skills, and team building.
- Reinforce the expectations and execution further by equipping the managers with the right processes, support, and tools to build on the momentum that was started.
The results were amazing! Record sales in the first six months, higher profitability, zero turnover of good performers, and a lot of smiling faces.
The work isn’t done; shifting to a high performing, consistent culture is a process. As long as the focus, accountability, and commitment continue, so will their results.
Shifting Your Company’s Sales Culture Isn’t as Tough as You Might Think
What’s been fascinating to me over the last 19 years of equipping companies to grow is that the culture, skills, and process improvements typically aren’t HUGE things. Retaining what works in the style, legacy, processes, and foundation the company was built on, with small tweaks and adjustments in key areas are what make the big difference.
Creating a sales culture does take commitment from leadership on down through the ranks, ownership, and consistent execution. And the payoff will come quickly. A cultural shift can be observed in six months or less. Within 18 months of continuous reinforcement and focus, the shift sticks.
That’s why we’re so driven to help leaders focus on the things that matter …the people who take care of their customers.
If you’re not creating a sales culture that invests in skilling up and reigniting topline sales and overall business growth, your business stagnates… and as the saying goes, “You’re either growing or you’re dying, so get in motion and grow.” -Lou Holtz, football coach and motivational speaker.
If you’d like an outside perspective on your culture and initiatives, we’re ready for the conversation! Schedule time directly with Nancy using this convenient link: www.calendly.com/nancybleeke
Upcoming Opportunities to Grow Sales
Our world-class, behavior change training isn’t just for big sales teams. We offer public format courses twice a year to give small companies, individual contributors, and entrepreneurs an opportunity to grow. Details for our spring offerings below.
For Sales Professionals – Genuine Sales is a course designed for anyone who is responsible for selling. Click the logo for more details. The on-site workshop portion of the course will begin April 26-27, 2016.
For Sales Managers and Leaders – The Genuine Coaching course is specifically designed for leaders who are responsible for coaching one or more salespeople. Click the logo for more details. This course begins on March 29, 2016.
4 Success Drivers You Need to Know...and Grow
How do you strengthen this "Will" among your sales associates? How does the lack of drive impact your daily life? I discussed this and so much more on a recent virtual training event you can access below. It's valuable information for any business leader who needs to maximize performance of their people to grow their company.
Click here to access the replay.