Creating a Sales Culture

One of the challenges that many companies face is to create a sales culture when the existing culture is more orientated to customer service and account management. Banks have been attempting to make this shift for twenty years. Now Law Firms and Accounting Firms are attempting to do the same. However, it’s easy to understand the difficulty that banks and professional service firms have in this area. After all, none of the professionals in those fields ever signed on to be a salesperson nor did they ever expect they would be asked to sell.

While banks and professional firms continue to be challenged by this difficult change, the problem is more acute for companies that already have a sales force, albeit one that is parked rather than driven, with complacency. This sales force prefers to call on the existing customer and live off the repeat business. While this tends to feed the salespeople, the lack of growth drives executives crazy and frustrates shareholders.

So what are the challenges a company will face when management decides to create a more proactive sales culture?

1) Resistance – the salespeople are the last ones who will want this to work. If they wanted to prospect for new business they would have sought a job with another company.

2) Ineffective Compensation – the existing comp program likely includes little incentive for bringing in new business so it must be overhauled to reflect the company’s new direction.

3) Ineffective Sales Management – the company will quickly learn that having the new strategy is one thing but executing it is quite another. After years of little to no pressure, sales managers have become too friendly with their salespeople and aren’t able to hold them accountable to the new goals.

4) Ineffective Recruiting – the company will also realize that they have to recruit some new blood and bring some more energy into the sales force. Unfortunately, they don’t know how to do this and recruit the only way they know how – by using their old model. They don’t find the right people and when they do accidentally stumble upon a salesperson who could succeed at new business development, he can’t succeed with ‘role models’ that don’t perform in the manner the company had hoped.

5) Lack of Competencies – another area in which strategy meets reality is that this sales force doesn’t have prospecting skills and may even lack the strengths needed to engage in prospecting.

6) Ineffective Training – after discovering the lack of interest and skills required for finding new business, the company invests in training. The training fails because training is only as good as the people being trained and by now, the company realizes that they have the wrong people to execute this strategy.

7) Not Enough Time – unfortunately, 18 months have probably passed at this point and the company will go back to the drawing board only if they have a short sell cycle. The company with the complex or high ticket sale may not yet be aware of the pending failure of this initiative.

8) Discouragement – it’s easy to become discouraged. First it will be the executive team. ‘Why hasn’t anything changed?’ Then sales management. ‘How can you expect us to change overnight?’ Then the salespeople. ‘They don’t appreciate what we’ve done for them.’

So how should a company proceed when it needs to have a greater emphasis on proactive selling? The first step is to look at the crystal ball before this shift is finalized. By evaluating the sales organization, and looking at the people, systems and strategies; all of the potential problems and obstacles can be identified and quantified in advance. You can learn which salespeople and sales managers won’t be able to execute the strategies and meet the expectations. For those salespeople who will be able to drive the process, you’ll learn the development requirements so that they are prepared for the challenge rather than discouraged by the failure. Finally, you’ll be able to determine your ROI.