High performing teams nearly always start with a great culture.
Once, company culture was seen as “smoke and mirrors”; free pizza and meaningless team-bonding exercises. The world of work has changed. Now more than ever, culture has direct business outcomes tied to it.
Today, businesses need to build a positive sales culture. One that is engaging, empowering and relatable for all employees. No matter their role or circumstance.
Culture is a clearly defined business identity, with employee buy-in to that chosen identity. That might sound simple when your sales force works in a shared office space. But what about those that are scattered further afield?
Remote working is no longer a concept; it’s a business reality. In fact, 16% of the world’s companies are now 100% remote. The bottom line is: Culture matters, even in the remote sales workspace.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at the importance of a great inside sales culture and five things we’ve learned over the years.
What is inside sales culture?
Inside sales culture is the mindset, attitudes and behaviors your business embodies. A high performance culture demands the effort, execution and growth needed to be successful. At the same time, you must make sure all parties are clear on core values and targets.
A successful sales culture focuses on clear goals, strategy, actions, feedback and trust. But don’t confuse culture with sales goals or a mission statement PDF. Culture is created through consistency and authentic behaviors. It’s a feeling, rather than a set-in-stone policy.
“Culture” itself is a blanket-term. Any number of things go into a culture framework. From how team members collaborate and issue feedback, to how to define success and attach rewards.
Why does sales culture matter?
Sales culture is unique because there’s no direct metric tied to it. This is unlike every other aspect of inside selling. There’s no way to quantify “good culture”. As we’ve mentioned, culture is a feeling. It’s personal. You can’t just create a “cultural framework” and expect a sales team to instantly buy in. It’s not something you can rip and replace from team to team. Culture needs to feel authentic, inviting and engaging to work.
Saying that, culture is still vital to your results. Teams are far more likely to engage with their work if they feel a clear belonging to a team. And if they can see the value of their role within that framework. It’s no secret this engagement means higher productivity, which in turn drives better ROI/ROE for any business.
When sales culture aligns with employee demands, they’re more likely to feel comfortable and valued. It reduces attrition and boosts retention rates. Not to mention, strong culture is a key advantage for hiring. In fact, studies show a third of employees would pass up the perfect job if the culture wasn’t right.
Team culture is one of the top indicators of employee satisfaction. Not just that, it’s one of the main reasons 65% of employees stay in their job.
Sharing & collaboration is key
Transparency at all levels is crucial to sales culture. That doesn’t change if it’s hybrid, in-office or remote. By sharing knowledge and insights, sales teams create a culture of open conversation. One that drives better results and return on effort.
Sales teams often adopt a culture of competition between reps. While healthy competition is no bad thing, it’s important to stress that strong inside sales is built on unity. The successes of one sales rep won’t be enough to carry an entire team. If a call script, email or tonality outperforms what everyone else is doing – share it. Culture starts at the team-level and cooperation is vital.
There’s no reason to hide knowledge and performance data from team members for personal pride. We’re not competing, we’re combining.
Coaching and training is essential to any high performing sales team. Culture should be established on day one when new reps join your sales team. Sales training has a big part to play in that.
Now more than ever, people invest in the opportunity before they invest in the business. Why? Because when team members see that a leader or business wants to invest in them as a person with the right training, their confidence skyrockets. Today, recruitment is all about career progress, and making sure every person has a roadmap in place to grow.
This is easier said than done in the remote model. Without face-to-face interaction, it’s hard to create connection during induction. Being visible is the key to overcoming this. Ensure each newcomer (and existing) gets the time to feel seen and heard. This can be through light 1:1s on near-term work, areas of focus or just check-ins to discuss their own challenges. Once sales leaders grasp these challenges, they can better judge where to place coaching time and budget.
Set the mission and pace
Training shouldn’t just focus on tech stack or making appointments. Culture starts with a shared vision – a motivator to engage, work and achieve. In the modern world of sales work, sellers look for a bigger reason to turn up than a wage. Common vision isn’t a prerequisite for success. But it helps to keep reps motivated with a clear sense of purpose, encouraging unity and joint effort.
For this reason, training has to be about who you are as a business and brand. So that’s your history, your objectives and how teams are expected to work together. What are your KPIs? Where does your product fit in the market? What’s happening in your industry? Establish this from top-to-bottom.
You also want to create a vision that keeps reps excited about their work – and where they fit into the puzzle. It’s about learning personal aspirations. Realizing how – as a business – you can make sure every day spent with you is a day closer to their goals. Not just your own.
Address high rep turnover
Culture and retention work hand-in-hand. If you don’t have retention, you can’t set culture. Strong sales culture needs to transfer to work, it’s a habit. If people keep leaving, you have to re-establish it, and it won’t become authentic or natural.
Not to mention, losing sellers constantly looks bad, creating a major red flag for candidates or newcomers. Finding and training new sellers can be expensive. If that roster keeps changing, team bonds are weakened and morale falls.
It’s important to build a structure for coaching, support and check-ins between leaders and their teams. This should last through each person’s tenure with the company, not just at the beginning. Regular 1:1 check-ins give sales managers a view into their people. At the same time it helps team members to feel seen, supported and encouraged to use their best work ethics and sales skills.
Equally, ensure to build a clear strategy for employee growth. Reps feeling stuck or limited by their choices is a huge driver of turnover. Make it known where there is scope for growth for each person in your business. Then be clear what they need to achieve to progress within their department.
Recognize and incentivize
Paying below-market rate will decrease retention and breed a toxic culture. Keep your on-target earnings (OTE) at least in line with industry rates.
But it’s not all about the money. High performing teams need a culture of “winning”. Reps should feel that their own successes align with the objectives of the business.
It’s easy to lose sight of the long-term impact of your culture by focusing on activity metrics and close rates. For a true ROI from your sales reps, they need to have incentives, recognition and stimulation. As part of your culture strategy, include how you aim to motivate sellers. Try compensation plans and career progression that reward effort, results, initiative and innovation.
It’s all about the impact reps feel they make to their team and business. If they can’t see that, they won’t feel a sense of responsibility and ownership for your business. As that gets diluted, there is less motive for people to want to do well outside of their own commission or earning potential.
As we’ve established, culture starts at the team-level. It doesn’t matter whether you’re part of a Fortune 500 company or a small business. If you want to build a constructive, cooperative and unified culture that your team members want to buy into, you need to follow four key principles:
- Be transparent and open
- Check-in often
- Give credit where it is due & incentivize
- Promote feedback & teamwork
Looking to start from scratch? At Harte Hanks we help you build your own team. You can leverage our knowledge and expertise as inside sales specialists. We reduce the time, cost, and risk of building a team from scratch by designing you data-driven sales programs. Or, if you are looking to fully outsource, we can manage your company’s inside sales process, from beginning to end.
Aimée is one of Harte Hanks Demand Generation’s talented Customer Success Managers, assisting our high-growth partners with their optimization or implementation processes to deliver continual returns on investment from their inside sales activities.