Why awesome sales performance and staff culture are like peas and carrots

By August 17, 2017Feature
Exec Group Office

The extremely bright Simon Sinek says that “customers won’t love a company until the employees love it first”.

It can be easy for you as a business owner or CEO to assume the passion you have for the organisation you’ve built and the purpose you stand for is powerful enough and infectious enough to spread to those you’ve hired to help achieve it. But rarely is that true. Your sales staff need to feel as though they belong, that you have their back if they have yours.

One of the first questions I ask – and one of the first questions you should ask yourself if sales aren’t going to plan – is not just have you built or are you building a personal, happy, success-driven and rewarding business culture. But how am I building it? How are you representing a culture that attracts, retains and rewards highly talented salespeople?

How are you representing a culture that attracts, retains and rewards highly talented salespeople? #SalesTips Click To Tweet

All the greats do it. Andrew Mason, the founder of Groupon, famously said “hire great people and give them the freedom to be awesome”. Richard Branson lives by the mantra that if you “treat your staff like the smart and capable adults they are – and give them the choice to make informed decisions – you will cultivate an environment in which everyone can flourish”.

Are you creating that environment? You should, because when the culture rocks so do your returns. Here’s how to start.

1. Ask yourself the ‘how’

“We have a great company culture” are generally the first words to come out of the boss’s mouth when I ask the question. But when you ask yourself the “how” – “How am I delivering an outstanding company culture?” – it forces you to list the ways you are actually creating a place where people want to achieve for you, themselves and for the team.

If you pose the same questions to staff, in my extensive experience, the answer is vastly different. In fact, I’ll give you verbatim one of the answers collectively delivered by a sales team I worked with a few years ago. It went like this:

“Culture? What culture? We don’t have a culture here. Coming in on time and leaving on time, that is our culture.”

And it’s a shame because that company had great products and a passionate CEO, but he as the leader of those people was failing to transfer that passion to his staff. It wasn’t until we addressed the “how” that it dawned on him he needed to take some simple measures to turn it around. So what did he do?

2. Build your people, build your company

I used to work for an American company that had one of the strongest, most addictive and smile-inducing cultures I’ve ever seen. I would check our Italy office, or in Buenos Aires, or in Yokohama or in Shanghai or South Africa and I would always see the same visuals on the walls expressing our culture in a simple yet powerful way. The people in key positions would talk about our values and refer to them in every big (and many small) decisions they’d make. We would use the same kind of language and, crucially, we celebrated as one, the victories and achievements. And the people who did not appreciate and contribute to the culture or support the values, did not stick around long.

That seed was planted from the second each and every staff member started on their first day. But if your company is lagging, it’s never too late to bring your culture to the fore.

To return to our earlier example, a week or so after I started working with them they had a record sales week (whether that was because of me or not I’m not sure but hopefully I had an impact). But more important than the record sales week was the way it was celebrated.

More important than a record sales week is the way it’s celebrated. #SalesTips Click To Tweet

The CEO walked out to his sales staff and said loudly: “Hey everybody, we’ve just had a record sales week. Thank you all for your efforts.”

They nodded courteously and the CEO returned to his office. I could sense the deflation, the business-as-usual temperament, so I sprung into action. I raced next door, grabbed enough champagne to ensure everyone got a bottle to take home, and returned – telling the staff it was a gift from the CEO for their efforts.

Simple, but effective enough to inspire at least a few comments from sales staff who said they’d have to work on breaking sales records every week.

It was after that small, inexpensive gesture that the CEO embraced a simple rewards program that included small gifts, time off and a major incentive at the end of each quarter for the highest performers. And that costs next to nothing when you’re breaking sales records.

Great culture costs next to nothing when you’re breaking sales records. #SalesTips Click To Tweet

3. You are the culture your business needs

Whatever the most senior person does in the company, that is copied in some way by the rest of the company. So ensure you live by it.

If you tell people that the culture of your company is great but you don’t celebrate the things your staff achieve with them – in person yourself – nobody will celebrate their successes. If a company succeeds and no one is there to celebrate it, did it ever really happen? And worse, if no one ever celebrates it, will your company repeat those achievements? In my experience absolutely not.

If a company succeeds and no one is there to celebrate it, did it ever really happen? #SalesTips Click To Tweet

Lead your culture by example, trust and train your people to embrace the culture and values by which you operate, and reward their successes. You will see smiles on your staff’s faces and profit added to your bottom line.

And that’s a culture anyone would get behind.