Imagine for a moment you want to improve your sales culture. Let’s assume you want to create a high-performance culture where everyone is striving for the best and mediocrity is no longer accepted. A sales utopia if you will.
Here’s how a transformation effort often happens and why it often derails.
The CEO and sales leader decide they want to make a big change, e.g., create high-performance sales culture. Leadership understands that this change will require a change in how the sales team does its work, so leadership issues top-down messaging littered with vague language that feels motivational.
We will create greater accountability and be more agile to address customer needs. We will grow our revenue through higher performance standards.
Fast forward 6-months. The transformation has stalled, and nothing has changed within the organization. Why? Because the sales team heard a series of words, they could not connect to their day-to-day work life. Successful transformation requires a culture change to make improvements long-lasting.
Leadership teams can increase their odds of success in a sales organization by focusing on three measures.
- Connect the culture change to the business activity.
- Assume nothing. Translate the change to the specific behaviors for each role.
- Create the plan, but expect to iterate.
Connect the culture change to the business activity.
Imagine you want to lose 10 lbs. in the next six months. How do you track progress? You could weigh yourself once a month, but if you find you’re off track, your ability to change the result is gone. This is a lagging indicator. However, if you set an objective of working out 4x a week and assessed the situation weekly, the key behavioral indicator would let you know ahead of time that you are off track to meet your objective.
Culture change does not occur in a vacuum. Culture must be rooted in business context and be an integral part of the continuous journey from transformation to assessment to performance measures. Linking behavioral indicators and sales KPIs will give you timely and actionable information. Leadership must identify the behaviors necessary to drive the transformation and work with management and the sales team to modify their behaviors within timelines for improvement. In a sales organization this is accountability to KPIs, daily, weekly, and monthly.
Management must work with the sales team to help the individuals understand why the new KPIs are important. The individual sales reps deserve to know the KPIs work for their individual goals, and for the overall company objectives. Mutually beneficial objectives are critical, but the reps knowing the reasons behind the strategy will help them successfully integrate the changes.
Just as with a weight loss program, success is more likely with a strong reason to lose the weight, your sales team will perform better when they understand why the transformation is important to them, and the company.
Assume nothing. Translate the change to the specific behaviors for each role.
Business outcomes clarify the macro context for culture change, but the individual sales team members need to understand the micro aspect. In other words, what do they need to change in their daily work and within their team? The second micro aspect is why they should do this.
The cultural transformation correlates to the invisible hand metaphor introduced by 18th-century Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith. If the sales team members are acting to grow their income and their compensation is aligned with company revenue growth, they will deliver the best possible economic outcomes.
When the salespeople understand how the specific behavior changes benefit their own bank account (extrinsically motivated individuals), and the team as a whole (intrinsically motivated individuals), the desired business outcomes are more likely to occur.
Create the plan but expect to iterate.
A plan is crucial for any change effort from the outset. Also critical is considering the data in front of you and reacting to reality, not what you expected to see. Focus on incremental progress and don’t try to make all major changes in a short period of time.
Listen to the team members on what roadblocks they find in the day-to-day work. It is usually not possible to anticipate all challenges with the plan so you must iterate and improve. Communication with your frontline team will build engagement with the plan and speed the transformation to a high-performance culture. This will also build trust with your team!
Need support or have questions?
If you have further questions about how to structure your transformation, please reach out to me here. When Helix begins work with a client, the very first thing we do is a sales evaluation & improvement analysis. The findings inform us on how the sales organization is functioning. Correcting the fundamentals in a sales organization is critical because when the foundation is broken, sales training and coaching usually fails. Training and coaching will not fix a sales organization with weak fundamentals.