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January 09, 2019 | Coach’s Corner | Greg Martinelli

Build the Sales Team Culture You Want

Where do you start when you want to change, build or rebuild this aspect of your agribusiness?

One of the most interesting benefits of training sales teams all over the U.S. is experiencing the wide variety of sales team cultures. You might think that salespeople are salespeople and sales teams are sales teams. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

I experience a wide range of sales team cultures from: the heralded heroes who keep the company afloat to the scapegoats that are the cause of all that is wrong in their company. It causes me to wonder: “How does this happen?” and “How can I improve or create the culture I want for my team?”

What is the sales team culture in your company? Do any of the situations below sound familiar?

  • The Elitists: This is very common. Since salespeople work directly with the customers who are the source of all revenue for the company, they are often highly regarded in the company as the source of bringing that revenue stream into the company. So, manager’s talk about, support, and “pull all the stops” out for the sales team. This gives the sales team a feeling they might be above everyone else in the company. Feeling they are the breadwinners in the company, a sales team can soon become arrogant, which generates a few of the individuals below.
  • The Abuser. This is the salesperson that feels they are so important that they can take out their frustrations on their co-workers: the office, the production staff, the drivers, etc. Often, this happens when something goes wrong: missed delivery, pricing error, poor product quality, lost customer, angry customer, etc. The abuser is the first to sling blame
  • The ROAD: Retired on active duty. This individual is granted immunity like they are part of the reality show, “Survivor." They were on top of the leader board, years ago. Management loved them and everyone treats them as earthly gods from the past. This is fine from a respect standpoint, but not fine from being accountable to grow the business like every other salesperson has to. Which leads me to the next type of individual.
  • The Free Pass. Salespeople are granted free passes based on their results. He has so much business, he doesn’t have to attend company functions, meetings, fill out reports, put her orders in online. Everyone does special tasks for the salesperson with the free pass. And this person would never log a sales call in the CRM program.
  • The “I brought the big account with me so I’m not part of your company." That’s a long title to a very specific salesperson. This one was hard to hire as they probably had a solid career at another company. As they join your company, they bring their customers with them. This salesperson actually feels like an independent contractor. Sometimes, they don’t wear company logos, use company business cards, etc. They identify as themselves.
  • The Scapegoats. In a few instances, I run into sales teams that are actually regarded as the problem of all that is wrong in a company. As strange as it may seem, the culture toward the sales team is very negative. These worry me the most as it is typically one of the unhealthiest cultures to experience. For whatever reason, the management or the rest of the company has great disdain for the sales team. Potential reasons:
    • They work from home, thus, we have no idea what they do. Adding to this opinion is the knowledge that the sales team is taking customers golfing, attending trade shows at resorts, etc.
    • The company is in disarray, which causes a loss of customers. Since it’s the sales team’s role to get sales, they are blamed for the lack of sales
    • Pay discrepancies or the feeling there is a pay discrepancy. Ever see a $14/hour employee process a $20,000 commission check? Deserving or undeserving, this situation can cause some resentment.
    • Recognition discrepancies. When a big account is sold, we bring that salesperson on stage and give her awards. We put his picture in the newsletter. While sitting in the audience or sitting back in their office cubicle are the multitude of office workers and operations people that made it possible to sell that account. They may or may not receive recognition, unless they make a mistake. Then they will get lots of attention.

So, what do we do to change, build or rebuild our sales team culture? Leadership + management + a heavy dose of accountability!

It takes good old fashion leadership functions. Here are a few:

  • Accountability: This is where I would start. No one gets a free pass.  Everyone pulls their weight until the day they stop receiving a paycheck. “Been there 30 years and once was the #1 salesperson in the country?” Great, that means you know how to sell. So, go get something sold. “You don’t like filling out CRM?” No one does, but it’s a job requirement just like OSHA reports, compliance reports, etc. We do our jobs around here
  • It’s everyone’s fault: Fix the delivery issues, fix the invoicing errors, answer the 800# in 3 rings, learn how to make our products the way they are supposed to be made, quit making the same errors over and over again. A salesperson’s words will not fix broken products and services
  • Respect 360 degrees: Everyone respects everyone’s role. No matter what you do, your role is important to the business; Selling, driving, administering, sweeping, marketing, leading. This means, we treat everyone with respect. No yelling, bossing, storming into the office and blaming, no screaming on the phone nor angry emails laced with accusations
  • Fairness: This is a tough one as every person has their own opinion of fairness. Each person has a role and the business can only pay a certain amount for that role. If you don’t like the pay, the freedom or the authority of the role you are in, then change your role. If you want big commission checks, then pick up a set of car keys and become a salesperson. If you don’t like the fact that someone in the office messed up your sale and now your income will be reduced, ask for a new role that is straight salary. However, neither change mentioned above will be as easy, relieving nor wonderful as you think it will be.  

There are several more key strategies for building and rebuilding teams that I use when working with agribusinesses. However, I’ll leave you with this one and it might be the most important: Start with yourself. No matter what your role is, reread this article and determine what changes you need to make to foster a healthy sales team culture!

Good luck and enjoy the many benefits of a positive sales team culture!

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