In a world in which clients no longer need to engage for information, sales organizations must take a close look at their existing sales climate and ask themselves whether their organization is helping or hindering their sales professionals ability to deliver insight, according to Corporate Executive Board’s Sales Leadership Council. So, can long-lasting sales transformation changes stick in organizations that do not also transform their culture? And, can sales culture be changed anyway?
That is the question that CEBs 2013 research study Driving Sales Transformation: Empowering Reps to Sell to Empowered Customers, set out to answer. Here is a preview of what they found:
- Sales culture is different – unlike “corporate culture,” or the set of deeply held beliefs and assumptions that company employees have, which is hard to influence and evolves slowly over time; the culture or climate of the sales organization can be influenced.
- Climate is controllable – sales leaders, through explicit and implicit actions influence the climate of the sales function, or the shared perceptions that sales employees have about the work they collectively do every day. Sales climate is local and operational in nature, and therefore requires less time to change.
- There is a micro and a macro sales climate – individual sales managers create micro sales climates (or team cultures) that exist within a larger sales force macro climate. While sales leaders set a tone for the sales organization’s macro climate, managers have a lot of influence over the climate or team culture that sales professional’s experience, and
- Most importantly, CEB research clearly shows that in the absence of the right sales climate, organizations looking to drive transformational change will not only waste valuable resources on initiatives that yield low ROI, but risk being relegated to price wars and become outcompeted by market players who can effectively sell to informed customers.
So what are the attributes of the right sales climate for selling in a collaborative business-to-business environment?
- Intrinsic Motivation – a climate where sales is motivated by peer acceptance and social signals in support of the changed buying behaviour of clients,
- Discretion on Building a Pipeline of Business – organisations that encourage sales to create demand early in the funnel, rather than react to it, by promoting pipeline building over pipeline velocity and throughput.
- Empowerment – climates that empower sales to take ownership and accountability for their business, and in which sales professionals are managed to outcomes rather than activities.
- Emphasis on Principles over Rules – sales climates in which managers allow and encourage principled exceptions to rules and process, and coach reps to develop judgment.
- Reward Business Building over Selling – organisations that incentivises sales based on the overall profitable growth of their book of business, rather than on metrics that monitor compliance to a particular sales process.
- Sales Innovation – climates that encourage innovation by giving reps increased latitude to determine how they achieve sales targets though sales innovation and adaptability.
This in a sales environment that associates success with providing insight about an unknown problem or opportunity in the client’s business that the supply partner is uniquely positioned to solve; a sales environment that associates success with reframing a client’s assumptions, whereby challenging content grabs the client’s mind share and is more memorable than information that is simply new or interesting.