7 Keys to a Successful Sales Culture


Alan Cutter

What makes a successful sales culture? These seven tactics, including feedback and coaching, transparency, and healthy competition, can produce great results if you implement them correctly.

Take a moment to ask yourself: What kind of culture have you built? The truth is that success at a start-up or organization doesn’t just happen by chance. It’s the result of a high-performance culture crafted with a clear strategy in place. And the first step toward getting there is determining which traits to emphasize and which tactics to implement. When you look at top sales teams, they have quite a few things in common, whether they are selling technology or T-shirts.

Here are seven keys to a successful sales culture.

1. Feedback and Coaching

Great company leaders provide regular positive and constructive feedback to their people. “Constructive” is the key term here. Give them feedback that they can really use. Sit down with your team members to have a conversation that centers on data. It will sound a little like this: “Your results are [metric] because you are [activity].” Identify problem areas and specific weaknesses on both a team and individual level. To really take your sales culture to the next level, you need to make a serious time investment in coaching the best company cultures are never content – they’re always looking for ways to improve. Strengthening your team strengthens you as a manager and a coach.

2. Positive Reinforcement and Celebration

danielle-birthdayYour company isn’t a little league baseball team; the point isn’t merely to have fun. When it comes to your sales culture, it really is about winning. Putting in minimal effort isn’t enough – no one is getting a pat on the back just for just showing up. That means providing constant positive reinforcement to keep your team motivated. Recognize their progress, acknowledge their hard work, point out great patterns that have emerged, and give them a little push over the finish line. Look for places in the sales process where you can add in moments of celebration. Even if it’s just company-wide shout-outs or cheers, these incentives can go a long way toward morale and boosting activity. In my company, we ring bells. When rookies get their first close, they get a company hoodie that they can wear with pride.

3. Transparency

Not only are you shouting about the good stuff, you’re also talking about the bad stuff. The best sales organizations don’t cover things up. Sure, you’re proud of your wins, but you need to be public about your losses, too. Pretending that things are always sunny is both unrealistic and destructive. Nothing should fly under the radar. Consider displaying a leader board of sales or sending regular recap memos to encourage transparency throughout the organization.

4. Healthy Competition

Of course, it’s only logical that a bit of competition will result from such widespread transparency within a sales culture – and that can be perfectly fine. You want your team to be constantly striving to do better, and one of the best ways to motivate them is with some healthy competition (whether it’s an informal one or something with a bit more structure). We’ve been doing a “March Madness” sales contest every spring for about the past five years. Competing in teams, each staff member gets points for hitting key metrics. And they can get extra points (think three point shots!) for extraordinary work or doing something great for the company. Create an environment that allows your salespeople to push each other as much as they push themselves.

5. Data-Driven Mindset: “What Gets Measured Gets Done”

To be successful, you have to know what success actually means to you. This requires measurement, of course. But more than that, you need to look beyond the numbers; it’s not enough to know what results happened, but why they happened. Step one: Monitor the right sales metrics. Step one: Gather valuable insights from data analysis. Keep an eye on results and pinpoint areas for coaching opportunities to optimize activities. It’s not just about the bottom line revenue number, but measuring the steps along the way that get us there.

6. Adaptability

The status quo can be toxic to a sales culture. Discourage stubborn thinking or that cringe-worthy explanation: “Because that’s how it’s always been done.” Stagnation can be a deal-killer. Change is inevitable: your mission is to foster an environment that thrives during the inevitable periods of change to develop team members who are easily flexible. Great salespeople are able to take a look at data, analyze it, and react quickly. One of the things my staff says that they love about our workplace is that we are always open to being the best that we can be. That means we don’t rest on our laurels, but are open to innovation and experimentation. Something things work, some do not, some go through iterations. That’s the learning process. Personally, I make sure to hire people who are open to change and improvement.

7. Shared Vision

How could you expect to win your desired prize if the whole team doesn’t clearly understand what it is? Make sure you illustrate what your intended destination looks like so that everyone in the company can move toward it together. Sure, each member of the team has an individual goal, they’re each working on improving their personal performance, but at the end of the day, they also need to have the overall mission in mind, too. And it’s not just a numbers game. Give your team something larger to believe in, the emotional drive behind their selling.