Are your company’s salespeople energetic and enthusiastic—or are they lazy, entitled and content to coast on their existing accounts? If the latter, the problem may not necessarily be with your sales team, but with your sales culture.
Companies that suffer from a mediocre sales culture may never rise above so-so status, and soon, even the best salespeople can be demoralized by the negative attitudes around them. So how can you develop a top-selling sales culture that powers your sales team higher and higher? Consider following these steps.
1. Hire slowly.
When you’re short on sales staff, it can be tempting to grab the first salesperson you find who’s adequate for the job. But settling for adequate may doom your sales culture. Salespeople may be highly influenced by their team members, so if you want a top-selling culture, consider hiring top salespeople. Spend the time necessary to do thorough interviews, have the team meet the candidates, test them in role-playing situations—whatever it takes to scope out their potential.
2. Fire quickly.
Poorly performing salespeople may drag others down to their level. Keep them on staff, and other salespeople may grow resentful and stop producing, too. If your efforts to get poor performers up to speed don’t get results, consider letting the salesperson go. Hiring on a probationary basis, such as 60 to 90 days, may make this easier. Performance issues aren’t the only red flags of a problem salesperson. Those with bad attitudes might infect others with their negativity. Nip it in the bud or consider moving them out.
3. Know your USP.
- What is your unique selling proposition?
- How do you help your customers solve their problems?
- How does your business stand out from the competition?
These are questions that everyone in your company (not just the sales team) ideally knows the answers to. The ultimate sales culture is typically one in which every employee, from salespeople to service people to accounting clerks, can understand the role they play in serving the customer. By showing everyone how their job matters, you can hopefully build loyalty and engagement among the whole team.
4. Provide ongoing training.
New salespeople need training, of course, but sales training is often a continuous process. Sales managers might provide sales techniques, observe reps on sales calls, help them plan how to approach prospects and provide regular feedback. Third-party training courses or seminars may be great, but what often matters more is getting your sales team working together to share ideas, best practices and suggestions with each other.
5. Use the data.
There’s so much information available now to help your team make the sale. Your business might use customer relationship management (CRM) software, loyalty programs or data gathered from social media to see what your potential customers want, what needs aren’t being met, where the best prospects are and more. Make your company’s data available to reps in ways they might use and help them harness that information to find new prospects.
6. Give them the right tools.
Don’t expect top sales if your reps are working with outdated technology. Whether it’s tablet computers or sales apps, consider spending the money to get your salespeople what they need. But first, get their input. Ask reps what they’re interested in using or what tools they think would help them sell more. That way, they’re more likely to be on board when they have to learn the new system.
7. Set a structure.
Top-selling sales cultures tend to use processes, systems and goals to help salespeople progress. Communicate quotas, milestones and expectations to your sales team. Selling is usually a continual process of activities—cold calls, emails, etc.—and without taking action, probably nothing will happen.
8. Learn from mistakes.
Don’t punish salespeople for mistakes or lost sales, but consider using these as teaching opportunities. Role-play how the person might have handled the situation differently, or ask other reps for insights into what might work better next time.
9. Maintain a high-energy environment.
Sales has the potential to be an ego-crushing job, and salespeople often need positivity, strokes and motivation to keep going in the face of rejection. Keep it fun with competitions among the sales team, publicly acknowledging top salespeople and sharing successes. Take time for sales team bonding events like happy hours or karaoke nights to let your team blow off steam.
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A version of this article was originally published on October 19, 2015.