Face-to-face vs. phones. Business trips vs. sales floors. Your gut feeling vs. your CRM. If you’re leading a sales organization that leans toward the former, it might be time to work on building a modern sales culture.
As for myself, I’ve worked in both — organizations that are purely inside sales, and ones running a hybrid field/inside sales model. In the hybrid model, frankly, the outside sales team really struggled to follow along with the more modern shifts we were making to improve performance (technology adoption was a big sore spot). The inside sales teams, however, embraced a more modern sales culture that helped drive business performance in a way today’s shifting business landscape requires.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the elements of a modern sales culture — whether inside or field sales — so you can help bring your sales organization into the 21st century.
1) It has to be data driven.
Low-performing sales teams use gut feel to drive forecasting — you might hear things like “what’s your commit” or “what are your best cases.” A modern, high-performing sales team relies on data to accurately forecast business, and the entire team is aware of the key metrics that drive forecast accuracy.
It’s important to emphasize that it can’t just be the sales management team that’s data driven; the reps must have that mentality, too.
2) You must have transparency.
In order to be data driven across the entire sales and marketing organization, you have to be transparent with those numbers. Really, the whole company should be aligned with the key metrics that are driving sales. You can do things like display that throughout the office, whether that’s just on a whiteboard, in all-hands and alignment meetings, or something more real-time. (At Attend.com, we’re looking to put in flat screens throughout the office that stream critical sales, product, and marketing metrics.)
However you share the data, keeping it accessible for all makes sure everyone is aware of performance — good or bad — so you can keep moving forward.
3) Everyone has to have accountability.
It’s easy to celebrate when you’re winning, and you should. But modern sales organizations take a look at when they lose, why, and hold everyone accountable when those things happen. You can’t make excuses for why your team or individual reps don’t achieve; whether it’s dial metrics, revenue targets, or monthly goals, modern sales teams hold themselves accountable to those metrics.
Now, accountability to underperformance doesn’t necessarily mean termination. Accountability is about looking at the deals that didn’t go through, and figuring out why you lost. Did we lose to a competitor? How can we differentiate better next time? Were we lacking a feature? How do we communicate that to Product? Is it because of lack of timely followup? How can we make sure that doesn’t happen again?
Modern sales teams celebrate the wins, but get to the root of the losses, too.
4) The team should be competitive.
If your team becomes complacent, it will fail.
Modern sales leaders create healthy competition among the team — and this really starts with finding people in the hiring process that are both naturally competitive but still team players. When you build a team with people like that, it creates a positive, high-energy environment that helps grow itself. Of course, you can also rev the engine by running competitions throughout the week that will help reps get to their end goals, or help the group hit a larger team goal.
5) You can’t stop practicing.
Create a culture of role play — weekly mock calls that you set up with your reps that target specific verticals you sell to, or to talk through typical objections they face on calls. Whether it’s a sales manager hopping on calls or reps working together, this helps your team get more comfortable asking some of the tougher questions, and being able to work through what a call script should sound like on a real sales call.
This isn’t just for new hires. This type of training should never stop. I’ve worked in places where we let it slip for a while, and we quickly saw the performance on real calls start to decline; we had to reimplement the training and make up for that lost time.
Sales is like sports — if your team stops practicing, you can’t expect to keep winning.
6) You must stay agile.
You hear that a lot in Marketing and Product, but it’s true for Sales, as well.
Agility starts at the top. To lead a modern sales organization, you can’t be a leader that’s stuck on a process that worked in the past. We all need to be quick on our feet in a fast-changing sales environment. Whether that’s the way you position yourself in the market, figuring out how to sell to a new target vertical, or addressing and fixing a break in the sales process, less agile sales leaders will quickly fall behind their more modern counterparts. Sales leaders that act quickly when things go wrong will foster a team that’s similarly adaptable.
Looking at all these traits of a modern sales culture, I anticipate agility is (appropriately) the hardest one to adapt to. But if you’re set on transforming your sales organization, you’ll have to be willing to let go of some of the extremely strict sales processes that aren’t reflective of the buyer’s actual purchasing process. If you find it difficult to embrace the more agile sales culture, be reassured in knowing that it’s a process that helps the buyer work through your sales process on their terms — which will make the deal easier to close for your sales reps, too.
Revenue and business goals aside, I predict those that don’t adapt to a more modern sales culture are going to face issues with recruiting and retention, too. There will probably be growing rep turnover as younger sales professionals enter the workforce looking for a different professional environment. In order to maintain some consistency on your team, a sales culture that aligns with the reality your buyers and reps face should help foster an environment of happy and successful employees.
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