Sales Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

By John Waid

How to Create a Sales Culture for Increased Profits, Faster Revenue Growth, and Better Salesforce Retention

John Waid-sales cultureDon’t you wish your salesforce sold twice as much as your competitors, your business was extremely profitable and your salespeople and customers loved you? Is this even possible? Chik-fil-A produces twice as much revenue as any other fast food chain and they are closed on Sundays. An investment in Southwest Airlines in the early 1970’s of $10,000 dollars was worth close to 12 million dollars in 2000—the highest return of almost any company in a thirty year period—and it’s a low cost airline in a very competitive industry. Zappos shoes went from start-up to being bought by Amazon in ten years for more than 1 billion dollars. These companies all have one at least one thing in common.

When sales managers are asked what makes for a great salesforce they’ll often cite characteristics like great products and services, excellent strategies, sound processes and systems, and being in the right place at the right time. Although these elements are important, there is one secret that the really successful sales leaders have.

When the founder of Chik-fil-A was asked why they were so successful, he mentioned that the company’s success comes from its people. Regardless of your particular industry, once you establish the mindset that you are in the “People Business” then it almost does not matter what you sell. The mindset of the great salesforces starts with focusing on the salespeople and their attitudes and behaviors.

Below are three mindsets you can work on with your sales leaders to move towards having much better employee and customer loyalty and amazing financial results.

The company’s success comes from its people. Click To Tweet

Salespeople First, Customers Second, Money Third

Let’s face it: we are driven in companies to push the salesforce for results, and in many cases, financial results. This focus on money first leads us to then focus on customers (where the money comes from) and then as a distant third, fourth, fifth or more, we spend some resources on the salespeople.

This order is actually leading to less profits, upset customers and high employee turnover. What would happen if we changed the order in which we focus on these three elements to employees first, customers second and money third?

Richard Anderson, the former CEO of Delta Airlines, realized that if his company was to survive (he helped bring two airlines, Delta and Northwest out of bankruptcy) it was going to be because of the people. During his tenure at Delta he focused his time and communication on employees (who he thought of as all selling the Delta brand) and making sure they followed the company founder’s values and behaviors. To do this, Richard found an employee manual from the 1940’s and rewrote it into what became the driving principles at Delta. This led to a rebirth in a sales and service culture which led to record profits.

If you want to be truly successful, change the order in your mindset to focus on salespeople/employees first; this drives customer satisfaction and as a result more profits.

Sales Culture First, Structure Second, Strategy Third

For at least the last century the focus has been on sales/company strategy, creating a structure to support it and finally (as an after-thought many times) creating a generic culture. What has this led to?

As companies focused on getting things done, too many strategies) were completed which did not fulfill the key element of strategy, which is to create a sustainable competitive advantage. While sales managers pushed to get things done, they created structures to support this frantic activity. After the strategy and structure were created (with little employee involvement) sales managers wondered why employees did not want to execute the strategy and why restructuring the salesforce was not working.

Make your sales culture the focus of your efforts and then the structures and strategies to support that culture. This will lead to highly productive and happy salespeople who customers love and buy more from. A good culture to start out with is one based on the C.A.P. values of Curiosity, Accountability and People Skills.

Sales Leaders First, Coaching Second and Managing Third

A leader focuses on salespeople and sales culture, a coach on sales processes and a manager on sales strategies and results. It is important as a sales leader to focus on all three of these areas, in the order mentioned, as people first need to be inspired and have a culture to live, then be in a structure that grows and then be held accountable for producing great results.

There are currently too many sales managers, a few sales coaches and hardly any sales leaders. This heavy emphasis on managing the salesforce with quotas and a “Beatings will continue until morale improves attitude” is leading to salespeople who sell because they have to, customers that buy because they have to, and profits that come in below expectations because everyone is being forced to do something sometimes against their will.

When you lead first, coach second and manage third you will have a salesforce that likes and is successful at selling, treats customers well and produces great results.

A secret to having a great salesforce is to hire and promote well and this is again done with an emphasis on hiring people that fit your culture, growing them with coaching and training and holding them accountable to reach the high levels they are capable of.

Remember: Sales culture eats sales strategy for breakfast, and ensure that you adopt a culture-driven selling mindset.

John Waid is the founder of C-3 Corporate Culture Consulting, a keynote speaker and author of the book, Reinventing Ralph. With a specialty and passion for corporate culture, sales and global business, John believes culture is the engine that drives companies to better results, higher morale, and increased profitability. An active speaker, trainer and subject matter expert, John Waid holds an enduring belief that corporate culture is the key to success for companies. For more information on John Waid, please visit: www.CorporateCultureConsulting.com.