I am often asked by clients to help them create a "selling culture" in their organization.
To many leaders, this means getting their salespeople to be more aggressive and competitive, while developing skills such as pursuit strategy, deal development and negotiation. For others, it means increasing focus on customer engagement and collaboration. And for some companies, it might mean that the Marketing department puts more energy into creating more and better sales leads, more case histories and new PowerPoint decks.
What is the right sales culture for your organization?
The answer: it's situational. Every company has its own combination of measures, assumptions, values and practices that drive its success. And each of its choices relate directly to areas where it needs to put more or less emphasis. Emerging companies have distinctly different cultures than mature companies. Companies focused on process execution like FedEx or Target have very different cultures than innovation-driven companies like Microsoft or WL Gore.
Here is an example of two companies with very different cultures. We will call them ACME Corp and SmithCo, to disguise their true identities. The chart shows just four elements that drive their respective cultures. Both ACME and SmithCo have been very deliberate about defining their target sales culture.
ACME offers a unique product and service solution, built around a breakthrough new product. They have just received a third round of funding, from investors with high performance expectations. Their objective it to quickly grab market share from much larger competitors. To support their growth, they hire the best pure sales talent they can find. While they might not create perfect customer relationships along the way, they are confident that they have enough marquee customer references to support their sales efforts.
SmithCo, on the other hand, enjoys longstanding, trusted relationships with customers. They are a large, publicly-traded organization with plans to expand globally. Smith is launching new products and services to replace their legacy offerings. They made a shift from selling "boxes" to selling customer-configured product and service solutions some years ago and want to deepen their customer relationships even further. To scale their business, they know that knowledge and process sharing are critical to ramping up their implementation and customer support teams.
It turns out that both are selling into the same industry segment. Who will win? That depends on who executes better against their target culture and who learns and adapts faster from each activity cycle. Customers have a big say in the outcome, to be sure.
For your company, the right culture might be some blend of both ACME's and SmithCo's cultural elements. In fact, the most successful companies have a healthy blend of contrasting attributes. This is important to make culture clear and alive, and not merely a collection of inspirational posters that hang in the break room.
The good news is that culture can be measured and reshaped. Leaders who clarify, communicate and execute consistent with their target culture have been shown to widely outperform their industry peers. A clearly-defined sales performance culture can also provide a valuable anchor point during times of fast change.
Take Action :
- To be outrageously successful five years from now, would your organization need to be more internally or externally focused? Do you need to put more focus on implementing changes or improving performance on existing practices?
- What would those changes mean or not mean to your team? To your organization?
- As a leader, what changes would you have to make personally to lead and support these changes?
Greg Krauska is President of the Change Agent Group and helps leaders shape a winning sales culture through innovation, simpler work and superior customer relationships. Discover more at www.changeagentgroup.com