The mistake CEOs make with sales culture is the same mistake made with overall company culture.  Words from leaders are not connected to the actions and behaviors teams must execute each day. Let’s explore an example.


Brenda is the President of a growing security integrator for corporations and institutions. She worked with her leadership team at their off-site meeting to share clarity on her vision for the company.  After the off-site their north star was crystal clear – elevate the customer experience.  The focus was the customer.


Their north star was rolled out at a companywide meeting and the VPs of each division spoke to their teams about the objectives.  All 145 employees were excited and the feedback back to Brenda was positive. The organization loved the idea and was onboard. 


Fast forward six months; the second customer survey results came back. There was no change in the results. The team had not elevated the customer experience. The nine-month and 12-month results showed a small reduction in satisfaction.


Why would an objective that the entire organization found motivating fail?


The answer is simple. The dots were not connected for the employees. Brenda and the leadership team did not help the individuals understand what behaviors and activities needed to change for each job function. Leadership assumed employees would elevate.  They assumed the team would figure it out. 


At the 30,000-foot level, the north star was clear.  Let’s provide our customers with the best-in-class experience before and after the sale. Leadership did a great job presenting the new company direction and getting buy-in from the team yet, they failed to improve. 


This happens when flowery vague language is used to speak about a big objective at every level within an organization. The direction must be clear, but the leader cannot assume that the team will know what must change in their attitudes, behaviors, and activities or how to make those changes.  Leaders must tell them. 


Collaborative changes are the most effective.  However, even the most motivated employees lose sight of the big objective as the daily grind takes over and they fall back into habits that served them in the past.  The result is – nothing will change.  Give the team the direction and support they need to make necessary changes that move the needle.  Don’t assume they will figure it out. 


How do you fix this mistake with the sales organization?


The sales leader must set and manage clear expectations for the salespeople to transform the sales culture.  The expectations must help the company achieve its goals.  And this is critical – the expectations must be connected to the salespeople’s goals.  It won’t work any other way.




What are the steps required to create a high-performance sales culture?


  1. Create a Clear Vision. Your vision in the context of how you want to be perceived internally & externally.
  2. Connect the Dots. Connect the attitudes, behaviors, and activities to the company objectives and their personal goals. Don’t forget to set a cadence to each (monthly, weekly, etc.)
  3. Manage the Process. Clear expectations will require creating accountability, repeating the vision within every communication, coaching the team for improvement, and never accepting mediocrity.


Let’s dive in.


Clear vision is often the easiest for an entrepreneur to define.  You know your purpose.  You have passion – otherwise, you would not have made the personal sacrifices it takes to build a company.  Being a visionary leader, you articulate who you want to help and why.  It must go beyond an eight-figure exit. 


Start with your leadership team to crystalize the fine points and consider how you roll this out with vigor and passion to the company.  Simple langue with clear objectives that the entire organization can get behind.  What are your core values and your vision for 3, 5, and 10 years?  What are the steps to achieve your vision in the next 12 months and quarter by quarter? 


Once you have your vision, you can collaborate with the Leadership team to deliver this to the organization.  You will need to confirm and test the sales leader on their message to the team.  Do they or the sales managers understand the personal goals of the reps and how to connect the personal goals to your vision?   This fails if they don’t!  Salespeople can be cynical.  Make sure the sales leader and sales manager can tie your vision to motivation for the salespeople!


Connecting the dots can be the fun part because this is where the growth happens.  Don’t rely on the sales leader to carry the message.  You are the best storyteller in the company.  It is your vision and the salespeople need you to help them put it into context for the customers and prospects.  The reps don’t have your business acumen – help them understand what best-in-class salespeople means!  They don’t know.


The sales managers and sales leaders set the expectations for the team.  Collaborate with your leader. 


The expectations must cover three buckets. 


  1. You want salespeople who have the commitment and desire to close business.  I call this Will to Sell.  Commitment, Desire, Outlook, Motivation, and Responsibility.  Non-negotiable. 
  2. The salespeople must conduct themselves as professionals.  They must be following your sales process, sales methodology, participating in sales meetings, open to coaching, competitive, yet willing to help other team members.  The reps’ interactions with your customers and prospects must be congruent with your brand and your vision. 
  3. High-performance sales teams have sales managers and sales leaders who clearly define the standards.  Excellence looks like “this”.  Weak performance looks like “this”.  We don’t tolerate mediocrity is the message in the interview, the monthly sales strategic meeting, and one on one meetings.  The intolerance is tempered with coaching, skill development, and support for the salespeople who are struggling.  There must be clear metrics for high-performance that are measured weekly & monthly. 


The salespeople, just like any other employee, must know the standards that are expected in their role every day.  If the salespeople are clear about who your ideal client profile is and what that ideal client’s pain points are, and how your company solves them – great – that is the minimum.  They need to know how their attitudes, behaviors, and activities are connected to your vision.  You will need to tell the story a lot.  Wash, rinse, and repeat consistently. 


Your sales managers don’t manage the salespeople.  That’s right – trying to manage salespeople is chaos.  The sales manager must manage the process along with expectations and metrics.  Accountability is not a bad word.  Accountability to standards is what elite salespeople strive to exceed.  If you have an accountability problem, you have the wrong people in the sales seat or the sales management seat.   Elite salespeople expect accountability and coaching.  Get more elite salespeople.


Questions for Contemplation


  • Have you shared your vision with the sales team consistently, and clearly enough for them to understand why it is important?
  • Are there clear expectations for what the salespeople need to do every day, and week to achieve your vision?
  • Do the sales leaders manage the process with strong accountability?
  • Are the right people in the right seats?



This is a lot to take in and implement. Doing so will elevate your company culture and your sales. If you’d like help with any or all of it, contact me to see how Helix Sales Development can help.