How to know when your sales culture is broken and how to fix it.

In many organizations we collaborate with, culture serves as the company's lifeblood. A company that cultivates a culture of bringing out the best in its people is more likely to successfully navigate the challenges of revenue growth and scaling.

A report from Forbes found that a toxic workplace culture is 10.4 times more likely to contribute to an employee quitting.

If you’ve ever spent time with a sales team, then you know how much culture can impact performance.  In the ebbs and flows of good quarters and bad quarters, keeping a culture that breeds productivity, enthusiasm and accountability is one of the biggest challenges in front of company leaders in 2023.    

The ability to detect when a culture is broken seems to be a “superpower” of sorts.  It goes beyond reviewing sales numbers.  

Great leaders seemingly have a sixth sense or gut feeling that things aren’t right. Others see their team checking out and being less engaged which is a more obvious symptom.  

It’s known as “Culture Crush,” a state where salespeople have lost their motivation and are not performing at their best.  Every CEO, sales leader or business owner will face this at some point in their company's lifecycle but few will know why it happened at all.  

Based on our experience, 'Culture Crush' typically occurs due to three main reasons:

1. There is a disconnect between company goals and sales goals. 
All sales people are emotional beings by nature. Much like an engine, they require fuel to sustain them through the highs and lows of their sales journey.

Giving them a quota and a compensation plan simply isn’t enough. They need a clear understanding of how their individual goals align with the company's broader growth objectives. Without this, they may lack the foresight to stay engaged when times get tough. You may notice sales people becoming less engaged, arriving at work later, and over time, selling less.

2. Marketing and Sales lack alignment.
Trying to achieve a symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing can seem like an impossible feat. In the daily operations of running a company, many of us allow these two departments to exist independently, akin to the separation of church and state. But like all relationships, if either side doesn’t have a clear understanding of their needs, processes and goals, it is only a matter of time before there is dissension in the ranks.

This typically results in an 'us versus them' mentality towards collaboration. This kills productivity and staggers overall results.  “Need stat on sales and marketing alignment and impact”

3. Do you smell that?…. Your culture has gotten stale.
Adopting a 'set it and forget it' approach to your sales team is not a viable long-term strategy.  Sales people require effective leadership and engagement to avoid becoming bored and complacent.  

While you might believe that an attractive compensation plan should suffice, it often doesn't. Teams need a variety of engaging activities and changes to break the monotony of their daily routines. 

This is especially true in the case of inside sales people. After a few weeks of sitting at the same desk making calls and doing product demos, some variety to keep things fresh goes a long way.  

4. Your people are not evolving.
You’ve hired your people but are you investing in them for the long term?  Every employee wants to feel like their employer is vested in their success.

For salespeople to be successful, they require a balanced mix of dedicated leadership, effective tools, and continuous skills development. If you are lacking in any of these three areas, the sales culture can evolve into “just another job” and not a place to build a career.

Hubspot’s research on sales coaching and retention in sales teams shows that “65 percent of responding organizations saw improved retention rates for their sales reps.”

What can you do to mitigate your risk against a broken sales culture?

Connect the dots
Effective leaders help salespeople understand how their contributions make an impact. As human beings most want to feel a sense of purpose for the road ahead. That way when things are hard they understand that their work is not just about them.  They have a level of accountability not only to their manager but also to their company, fellow employees and customers.  

Their role becomes more than selling a product.  Its purpose evolves into adding value to customers and impacting company growth. Their actions help pave the way for other opportunities where the entire team wins. Understanding their purpose and how it plays into the big picture goes a long way.

Integrated approach to revenue growth.
This lines up similarly to aligning sales and marketing.  Focus on achieving an integrated approach to revenue growth.  Make sure Sales & Marketing have clear goals and there is no mystery about the rules of engagement.  

The best teams create a cadence framework for communication and knowledge sharing. Ensure diligence by making it a weekly or bi-weekly commitment.  Lastly, when doing your annual or quarterly planning create some shared goals between the two departments and get them working together as a team.  

Stay fresh
Create a schedule that incorporates a mixture of friendly competition, communication and spotlights on the small wins you see on a weekly basis.  Celebrate activity metrics, new sales even birthdays–anything to give the sales floor an energy boost.  

In our experience, changing the seating plan two to three times a year can be beneficial, as it allows representatives to interact with different team members.  This enables them to learn from how their peers approach sales and manage their day. This is an excellent method of passive learning and team building.

Invest in your team
From a skills perspective, this can be as simple as implementing an internal training regimen to get better at product demos or purchasing. Alternatively purchase a training program from a company that can have an impact on your current skill gaps.  Doing something is always better than the status quo.

Fractional Leadership.
If you don’t have the cycles to spend on sales and aren’t ready for a full-time sales leader, consider fractional or virtual leadership. Fractional leaders give you access to senior talent on a contract basis. These options can be a great opportunity to fill in any gaps you may have as you focus on other areas of your business.  

Whatever you decide to do moving forward, remember that when it comes to people management, effort directly equates to impact. 

To get a more detailed guide to repairing a broken sales culture, talk to us and learn how to propel your business to revenue growth.