Let me share a personal story. An arm of my business includes pro-bono sales mentoring. For no monetary purpose but for a way of giving back and helping those salespeople who are struggling to become better. It reduces stress for many and can even save a business.
Earlier this week, I spent an hour with a salesperson in the UK. His outcome for being coached was ‘to find his mojo’. He had slipped. The reason he had slipped was because he hadn’t gotten over his dad’s death earlier in the year. He was behind in his numbers. Man, who could blame him?
Whilst he has been receiving grief counselling outside of work, he was flip-flopping between putting on a brave face to his clients and colleagues, and then hitting that slippery slope into feeling lost. Naturally, this was impacting his sales role and his results – not to mention, not being sustainable.
As a sales manager or leader, how would you ‘coach’ or ‘mentor’ him? Not to play counsellor, but help him find his way back to being an A player? This coaching ability takes more than being a sales manager who is focused on the numbers. This takes more than being someone who can help him review his task list. This takes someone who doesn’t just have the empathy, but has the psychological knowhow to ‘move’ someone. As Dan Pink says, ‘our responsibility is to move people’ just as is our responsibility as leaders with our people.
A sales culture isn’t just about making the numbers. It is also about inspiration. The Latin word in-spire means ‘breathing life into’. How do you breathe life into your people, so they can make their numbers and feel safe doing so?
Technology, product knowledge, left brain, logical development will not do it.
How you do it, is by marrying a structured process and framework with role clarity and kindness.
For a sales organization to create a ‘sales smart’ culture, the concept must be incorporated at all levels with a focus on contribution to everyone’s growth, including a focus on the growth of the buyer’s business and your team’s.
What is culture?
Well, a few things.
- Ask my husband and he would suggest an experiment from the back of my fridge, disguising itself as a petrie dish.
- Or my grandmother would tell me it’s how to dress and carry myself.
- Or, we could borrow the phrase Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart used in the characterisation of pornography in Jacobellis v. Ohio, ‘I know it when I see it’.
Can you have a culture that is both overt and covert? Absolutely! What we say to the world and what we do behind closed doors can be totally different!
Can we have a strong company culture on one hand and a weak sales culture on the other?
Absolutely! And that is where many businesses fall over.
They have the trust, the loyalty, the fun factor, the collaboration, great leadership, great operations, but they lack the sales focus.
And that is, in many ways, because they don’t know what they don’t know.Small to mid-size, established, possibly family run businesses, often times fall into this category. The life blood of our economies, that same demographic of small to mid-size businesses, do not focus enough on the commercial responsibility of their business.
Red flags that I see, include:
- No formal sales process or framework to work with
- Lag indicators v lead indicators being used
- No milestones for accountability
- No accountability even where there are milestones
- Sales leaders and CEOs inadvertently laying their beliefs onto the salespeople
- One on one sales reviews being mistaken for annual performance reviews
- Sales meetings being once a quarter
- No CRM systems
- No people development at all
- No awareness of their value proposition from top level down
- Wrong people in the wrong jobs
They also hang onto the wrong people for too long. Hoping, wishing and waiting that they will begin to hit their straps… yet they never will. In the meantime those expenses and those static revenues inhibit that much needed growth.
In larger companies, it can be the opposite. They tout customer satisfaction (internal and external), paint a glowing picture of this great culture, yet are happy to give a 30-day letter to someone who has slipped for a little longer than they would like in the ‘reaching target’ stakes.
However, in both cases, blame for not making the numbers cannot rest on the shoulders of the salespeople alone.
The leadership team plays a huge part. Or should!
Culture. Your culture! What is it? You will know it when you see it, hear it and feel it!