Changing Sales Culture

Changing Sales Culture

How To Separate The Good From The Great

Change is the driving force in a successful sales culture. How a team adapts to that change will determine how successful it is. Whether you are new to the arena or you’re a seasoned bull rider, here are three common mistakes we’ve seen sales managers make:

• You think your organization doesn’t have a sales culture
• You misunderstand the purpose of a sales culture
• You think culture grows from the bottom up instead of the top down

No sales culture? Think again.

While it may not be overtly apparent, every organization has a culture. A successful sales culture focuses on adapting to change quickly, and often. Sure, there are risks with change. Doing something for the first time comes with a lot of unknowns. The brain likes change just about as much as the body likes the plague. As a ProActive sales manager, you can help your team adapt to change quickly by understanding the stages of change and steps to take during each one. Just like sales reps walk prospects through a sales cycle, pulling instead of pushing, you also can help pull your team through a change, be it a pricing change, market shift, product addition, etc.

Sales Culture 5 StagesDr. Kubler-Ross developed one of the most famous descriptions of the five stages of grief in her book “On Death and Dying”. While she was writing about the stages that dying people usually go through as they come to terms with their fate, this process applies seamlessly to change within a business.

Let’s use the example of a drastic pricing change that will seemingly make sales more difficult. Here’s what the five stages will look like to a sales rep:

1. Denial: Your team may be unwilling to accept the change that has occurred. You’ll hear mumbling of “It shouldn’t be this hard” or even “it will never stick” at this stage.

2. Anger: When the realization sets in that the change in price is here to stay, people can tend to become upset at management, customers, the company – whoever decided this price change was a good idea, anyway? They will feel a sense of loss at the expectations that were on them before and show frustration over what is perceived as a difficult change that makes their job more difficult.

3. Bargaining: Plan B. People start to hunt around for ideas to accommodate a win-win. What if we sell more of a different product? Will that suffice? While bargaining won’t work, it’s the brain’s way of negotiating with the inevitable.

4. Depression: When the sales team realizes that the increase in price is here to stay, a surrendering depression can sink in. You’ll see top performers quit, and a shift in remaining team members may occur. Sales prospecting will drop, stubbornness will rear its head, and you may even blame yourself for contributing to their unrest.

5. Acceptance: There is a silver lining. Once the initial emotions are processed and the storm has reached its apex, acceptance dawns. The team has accepted that the price change is here to stay, and they focus on new ways that the product is distinct in the market.

Here’s What You Need To Do In Each Stage

You’ve identified what needs to change in your organization. Great! You need a process that follows the five stages so you can keep the energy moving through to completion. When you successfully pull off one major change within the team, each following change will come more to you more fluidly.
Let’s take those Five Stages of Change above and now apply your Energy Drivers in the Culture Changing Process below:

Sales Culture 5 Stage2Using our drastic price change, let’s review:

  1. What needed to change? We were priced far too low. We had been selling on price rather than value and it simply wasn’t working. Our market share, our brand, and our organization was suffering greatly.
  2. What had to be given up? Selling on price rather than value.
  3. What will the change look like? Our sales department will have to shift its selling proposition. We helped our team by giving them additional sales training with a heavy focus on value. We created consistent training to help sales reps build up their skills and confidence in selling in a completely new way.
  4. What steps will be measured? We measured the training adoption of each salesperson. Strong adopters were paired up with lesser salespeople, and weak or destructive team members were let go.
  5. When will we get there? We gave ourselves a 3-month deadline. The first month we invested heavily in training our team, and the following two months were spent refining our process and team.

You Are The Secret Weapon

Have you ever heard the phrase, “People leave their bosses, not the company.” It’s true.  If you fail to understand the stages of change, you’ll lose touch with your team. There is a direct connection to success when sales managers and VP’s work in sync with the sales team. Learning together:

  • Creates a common vocabulary
  • Increases the chance of sales training sticking
  • Solidifies a bond

Those three things working together support real change, which protects great sales cultures. It’s your job as a sales manager to be ProActive in predicting responses to change and to lead the team, therefore the culture. You can read more about how to foster a great sales culture in our book, “More ProActive Sales Management”.