Which Dirty Word Best Describes Your Sales Culture?
Be honest… What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of a “salesman”?
“Dodgy,” “Slimy,” “Pushy,” “Self-centred” and a host of other negative stereotypes are generally the common responses – and that’s across literally tens of thousands of salespeople that I have asked.
What was it for you?
You would be surprised how damaging these common images of the salesman are to your sales culture, so let me ask you a question: What do you need your people to think of “sales” and being “salespeople” in order to motivate them to behave like great salespeople?
The big point here is that if your salespeople associate negative attributes to “sales” and being “salespeople” then it’s unlikely they will be motivated to develop their sales skills and become excellent in their role. If your sales culture is ultimately just “the way we sell around here,” then negative associations weaken performance and negatively impact sales.
As discussed in a previous blog post, 5 Tips for Shattering Your Salespeople’s Limiting Beliefs, the beliefs of your sales team is one of the fundamental levers in shaping a stronger sales culture. Failing to consider and improve beliefs will often result in the failure of other efforts to develop a stronger sales culture. As an example, you may try to impact your sales culture by developing the sale skills of your people and coaching them them the best sales techniques for cross-selling.
Neither of these strategies are likely to have a significant impact on your sales results, if your people believe “sales” is not part of their role and cross-sell is a “would you like fries with that” activity that damages customer relationships and service quality.
Tackling these sentiments starts with redefining what “sales” and being a “salesperson” means within your organisation.
Many would argue that I should say “defining” rather than “redefining” because they’ve never been through the process of creating organisational meaning around this term. But that ignores the fact that there’s already a definition of “sales” and “salesperson” in the mind of every person they employ. Overcoming these long-held stereotypes is one of the biggest roadblocks to shaping a sales culture that drives improved sales actively, behaviours and results.
At SalesITV we redefined “sales” within our organisation and it was surprising how long this took and how much debate it generated. We included this in our Salesperson’s Code to make sure that within our sales culture, everyone’s core beliefs around “sales” and being a “salesperson” are consistent and aligned to the sales behaviours and standards we expect within our team. As an example, the term “helping the customer” was a part of that definition to drive home the fact that “sales” in our business results in the customer being in a better position than they were before they were “sold” something by our team.
When we have internal conversations about solutions that we’re selling we challenge each other on how those solutions can “help” each customer we engage. This drives robust conversations around the connection between what we are selling and the outcomes for the customer, leading to more positive customer service outcomes. The more we do this internally, the more confident and passionate our people become about implementing the solution for the customer and not surprisingly the more committed they become to making the sale.
This is just a small part of our definition, but for any organisation redefining the term “sales,” this is the starting point for changing associations from negative to positive.
Your challenge – shaping a stronger sales culture
The first question you need to consider is: What are the associations my people currently have with “sales” and being a “salesperson” within our organisation?
You need to be honest about this, which means getting honest feedback from your people throughout the business.
The next question is: What do I need my people to associate with sales in order to drive the sales activity, behaviours and results we need to be successful?
Take time out to think about this and make sure you don’t leave critical aspects out of your desired definition. As a simple example, if you leave “meeting needs” out of your definition, you might get more sales but you might also get a lot of unhappy customers that feel like they were “sold” to rather than serviced.
About Dean Mannix
Dean Mannix is one of Australia's leading sales coaching experts with 25+ years experience in consulting for leading companies including Suncorp, Westpac, Macquarie Bank, News Corp, Meridian Energy, Medibank, Boston Consulting Group, and many more in over 25 countries.
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