No two sales cultures are identical. The most effective culture for your organization will vary depending on your unique leadership strategy, sales team structure, and selling environment. Truly transforming the sales culture of your organization won’t happen overnight—it takes careful planning, commitment, and an investment in time. But the payoff comes as lasting performance improvements and sustained growth.
Step 1- Diagnose the Root Cause of Your Biggest Challenges
Before you can unlock your most effective sales culture, you have to identify what’s currently holding you back—as well as the strengths that you already have and will be able to leverage into the future. The focus in this diagnostic stage should be pinpointing which changes to your existing culture will result in the greatest benefit to performance. With that in mind, transformation doesn’t always mean a total overhaul of the systems and processes you already have in place.
The ideal situation is to integrate changes into the areas that are already established and working well. The leadership team should come to an agreement on where the greatest sales challenge lies before any change initiative is considered. Sales leadership, especially, will need to closely consider their own strengths and development areas, as sales culture is directly linked to sales management and coaching capabilities. Key questions to ask during this discovery period
- What are the cultural requirements of our business strategy?
- Where are we meeting them successfully?
- Where are we not meeting them, and what is holding us back?
Identifying the root cause of a dysfunctional sales culture is critical, yet it’s often misdiagnosed as a need for sales skill development. Developing your sales team’s skills will benefit their performance, but creating a sustainable culture shift requires a deeper, holistic diagnosis of the root problem—Is it process? Compliance to process? Wrong talent fit? Lack of tools? Lack of systems? Poor marketing? Lack of coaching? It’s not enough to patch a hole—to stop the leakage, you have to determine what’s causing the holes in the first place.
Step 2- Design Interventions
Less is more when it comes to change management. Transforming organizations is difficult, and according to the Harvard Business Review, two out of three transformation initiatives fail. Once you’ve identified your biggest sales challenge(s) you can develop a plan that encompasses a few high priority initiatives that have the greatest impact on sales culture shift. This will be unique for every organization, but typically involves adjusting sales management processes, optimizing talent management, and training your salesforce with a common sales process.
Visible backing from senior leadership is critical, and messaging should affirm just how important the program is to the future success of the organization. You can increase buy-in and build momentum by identifying influential members of the team and inviting them to contribute to the design—they’ll feel a sense of ownership and will in turn become champions of the program.
Whether you’re working with a training provider or executing the change initiative internally, be sure to incorporate milestones to keep track of your progress. You should also avoid significantly increasing the workload of the people directly affected by the sales culture initiative, which decreases the likelihood for success. For example, if you’re training your sales team with a new sales process, incorporate that process into the CRM system that they’re already familiar with. You’ll not only reinforce the new methodology, but you’ll decrease the resistance that often accompanies change.
Step 3- Implement the Change Initiative
The importance of dedicating the correct program leader to manage the delivery of the intervention cannot be overstated. It’s not only their responsibility to keep the program on track with the designated timeline, they will be the source of momentum for the organization’s shift in sales culture. As the initiative is implemented, early wins should be socialized and success stories from influential team members should be circulated.
With the right execution, your sales team should show measurable performance improvement within the first few months, but achieving a sustainable sales culture transformation requires longer-term commitment with extended coaching and reinforcement—true culture change is typically achieved in 1-3 years. Contrary to popular perception, HBR research shows that a long project that is reviewed frequently is more likely to succeed than a short project that isn’t reviewed frequently. The key is establishing expectations and accountabilities at all organizational levels and focusing on coaching and reinforcement to hardwire the changes into the day-to-day operations of your sales organization.
If you do choose to partner with an outside provider to achieve sales culture transformation, be sure that they have plenty of experience dealing with sales organizations with challenges similar to your own.