A "buzz" topic that has been written extensively about recently is the attributes of a successful sales culture in business. Companies operating high performance sales cultures often possess certain qualities, such as:-
- Sales is regarded as a "team sport", with sales and customer service functions recognised as critical to growth.
- Value is identified as helping customers uncover needs they didn't know they had and therefore engaging with them for the long term.
- Every employee, from receptionist to MD, understands the role they play from a sales and customer service perspective and practices this daily.
- Employees are coached to achieve desired outcomes and behaviours and to instil the customer service philosophy.
- All employees know how to recognise an opportunity, what their company's unique selling points are and where the "low hanging fruit" is.
So why is it challenging to achieve this state of sales culture nirvana?
- The barriers to achieving growth through a high performance sales culture are real and will often vary depending on business size. However, some issues remain consistent across organisations of all sizes, including:-Changes to the buying process affecting standard or traditional sales approaches.
- What customers value continues to evolve, requiring increasing agility and flexibility from companies.
- Lack of collaboration both internally between management and employees and externally with suppliers and customers, leading to the company's vision not being shared or understood.
- No alignment between business strategy and employee performance resulting in a lack of accountability and an attitude of "it's not my job to do that".
- Sales is seen as a "dirty" word by non-sales employees, often to cover up a fear of selling or a lack of understanding about what selling really is - which results in comments such as "I don't know how to sell", or "I don't want to be seen as selling".
However, the seemingly elusive high performance sales culture is not as unattainable as many think. There are clear steps businesses can take to move their employees to a successful sales culture.
- Clarity around the end goal and vision needs to be created by collaborating both internally and externally to define the future state you want to achieve. Take your employees and your customers on the journey with you.
- Train every single person in the organisation, without exception, in how to sell themselves and the company and how to provide outstanding customer service.
- Ensure your performance management system reflects this new approach and reward accountability. If an employee demonstrates excellent customer service or cross-sells into another department, acknowledge them to the team and if appropriate drive this behaviour across the business through recognition and/or reward.
- Engage your employees by ensuring they have the skills and tools they need to do their jobs. Keep communication lines open with them to address any concerns, or to listen to any suggestions or innovative ideas they may want to share.
- Recognise the changing landscape of the marketplace. Encourage everyone from your senior management team down to understand these changes and the value to them of being agile and flexible enough to move with the times and adapt to new ways of doing business and growing sales.
Overcoming the barriers to creating an effective high performance sales culture is a reality that more businesses - just like yours - are successfully achieving every day. However, it takes a change in mindset, planning, communication and a commitment to taking the first steps to make it happen.