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Six Keys to Change the Sales Culture From Me to We

The Farther Up a Leader goes the Further Out they Should See

Dear Lee, I truly enjoy reading your sales and leadership articles. I am currently an HR professional at a mid size company and I was wondering if you could address the following question, for a training project I am hosting for our Sales VP's; Sales Units are often referred to as TEAMS yet it seems that it is actually an INDIVIDUAL SPORT. How does management incorporate the team concept into the culture without taking away from the individual performance? Belinda, Oh

Dear Belinda,

Recently, I went skydiving for the first time. Stepping out of the plane onto a 6" platform and jumping at 7,000 feet was an amazing experience! However, I didn't accomplish this alone. It was a tandem jump with a veteran skydiver. However, this veteran skydiver who had over 2,000 jumps didn't accomplish the jump alone either. He had an experienced pilot who had flown the plane on over 10,000 jumps yet the pilot didn't get the plane off the ground,  without the aid of an experienced airplane mechanic who performed a detailed evaluation of the plane before and after each takeoff. This team of individuals worked together to ensure that I (who was also part of the team) experienced a safe and enjoyable outcome.

Each individual sales associate and management team member has their own set of skills and weaknesses. None of the individuals are perfect. However if you were able to take the individual gifts from each sales associate and combine them into one person you would then have the perfect salesperson or the perfect manager. Therefore, the key question to pose to the VP team is, how can you best duplicate and combine these skills to optimize performance at both the management and field sales levels?

My first suggestion would be to encourage the VP's to remove their VP hats  and to put on their Sales Manager caps. In other words to change the culture they will need to coach the coaches (the sales managers) and the players (sales reps). By nature, most VP's have to operate at an altitude of 10,000 feet because they are chartered with a" bigger picture" responsibility than that of the sales manager who operates at a 1,000 foot level. However, to affect the needed change the VP's need to be involved at the ground level to ensure that the culture is established, that the troops are fully engaged and that all are held accountable. Additionally, one can only "seize what one can see". Consequently, the managers and the sales force needs to see that the Senior Leaders are committed to the change or it will most likely fail

The Six Management Keys to Change the Culture from Me to We:

  • Set Individual Performance and Personal Goals - Meet with each individual Manager and Sales Associate to discuss the individual quota expectations. Have the individuals also share their personal goals as well (i.e. I want to run a marathon, obtain a degree, grow my net worth by 10%, etc.). Once these goals are established it is very important to not only discuss their progress on the quota objectives but also the personal goals.  Recognize the achievement and or progress of the individual goals in addition to the performance goals at your next sales meeting. The message to the associate is that they are valued beyond what they have sold.

  • Communicate your Objectives and Expectations - Let the team members (management and associate level) know what you expect from them. In addition, communicate what your management philosophy is, what you stand for as a leader and most importantly their importance to you and the organization.

  • Set Team Goals - If you speak about team but recognize individuals for their performance only - it really isn't about the team is it? Setting and working towards a team goal (i.e. no client losses for the month, achieving a combined unit sales objective, etc,) fosters a unified objective in addition to, the individual performance achievements

  • Create a Culture that Fosters Loyalty - First and foremost, stand up for your people. Nothing fosters loyalty better than being loyal to those who serve you. Good Leaders know that it is their obligation to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.

  • Create a Culture that Fosters a Spirit of Serving - Schedule a community service project that the team participates in or perhaps an internal event (i.e. the Sales team serves the support team a lunch to show appreciation). Serving others unifies the team as they work toward a common goal of service to others. Additionally develop a mentoring program where the tenured sales associates work as a team with the less experienced sales team members.

  • Provide  Communication Highlight Reels - Twitter, Texting or a 10 minute video streams, are just a few ways that Leaders can keep their teams abreast of the victories that are occurring on an ongoing basis. Highlights should include progress on the sales cycles, actual contracts/sales successes, team goal updates and this can also be the perfect opportunity to mention progress on the individual personal goals (i.e. Sarah is up to 60 miles a week in her training for the marathon). Obviously, some personal goals such as" I want to be a better father or I want to get married next year,"  are best addressed one on one rather than the more public environment but good Leaders know that to unify a team the personal goal progress updates are critically important.

Individual awards and recognition should always be an element to motivate, inspire and reward the high performers in any sales organization. However, this type of recognition without the aforementioned keys will actually inhibit your company's objective to create a team culture because it sends mixed messages to the individual sales associate (they talk about team but they only recognize individuals).

At the end of the day, whether you are skydiver on your first jump or sales organization attempting to adjust it's sales culture, the old acronym for team still rings true; Together Everyone Achieves More! Wishing you continued Growth and Success -

Good Luck and Great Selling!

Lee can be reached directly at [email protected] or 832 567 8512 for your Sales Management /Sales strategy questions or to schedule him for a speaking engagement and performance coaching. Actual names will not be used without permission.

More Stories By Lee Novak

Lee Novak is a twenty-five year Sales Management Executive who uses a proven people-first, client-first philosophy. Lee has a reputation for building teams that not only are high performance groups but also who do business the right way, at the right time and for the right reasons. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his sales leadership, innovativeness and measured performance, while working in various Executive roles at ADP Dealer Services (a Fortune 500 company in the technology and service sector) for twenty one years - where he was responsible for over $ 600,000,000 in revenue during his tenure. Lee is currently Partner at Novak Enterprise Consulting which focuses on Sales Management Coaching, Associate Development, Improving Sales Performance and Life Enrichment Coaching and he is a respected keynote speaker for corporate and award banquet events.