One of the hottest topics in mortgage banking today is how to implement a great sales culture. While senior managers are talking about sales culture, not many understand what a great sales culture looks like or what is required to create one. Unfortunately, many managers mistakenly believe that a great culture is based on having an aggressive compensation plan. The reality is that greater compensation doesn’t necessarily translate into having a better sales team.
There is no question that transforming a group of individual contributors into a well-oiled sales machine can be difficult. A great sales culture requires executive leadership that understands how to shape the sales organization in the right way. In my sales consulting practice, I have identified seven strategies that lead to a great sales culture:
- Hire the right people. By far, this is the absolute foundation for a successful sales culture. If a company doesn’t bring on talented salespeople who have the right relationship and drive skills, they are seeding their own eventual demise. In addition to not meeting production goals, poor performers tend to clog the back office and impact morale in a negative way.
- Install strong first-line managers. Good managers are worth their weight in gold — more so than top producers —because they have an exponential impact on the sales organization. Good managers create the positive environment for others to do well and help their team members get to the next level. As a result, originators want to work for them and good managers retain employees. Good managers are not pushovers but are leaders who demand a lot from their sales staff and enable their employees to reach their personal goals. When the good times end in the marketplace, the good managers are still able to achieve corporate goals but poor managers are not.
- Cull the herd. Great sales cultures are always changing to match the demands of the marketplace. As a result, sales professionals who were previously successful may not be in the new environment. Senior management must drive the establishment of what is acceptable performance and what is not. Good sales cultures hold fast to performance standards for every employee. Weak cultures are hesitant to address the underperformers and before they are aware, the sales environment devolves into complainers who have more excuses than actions to achieve success in difficult markets.
- Develop a repeatable sales process. All successful business people including top producers have a repeatable system that structures their days, weeks and months. In other words, they are proactive about how they leverage their time. Lesser performers are reactive and let daily events determine what they spend their day doing. The result is that poor performers accomplish little more than putting out fires instead of engaging in the activities necessary for long-term success. When a sales force is dominated by reactive originators, a weak sales culture ensues.
- Make talent development a priority. Top performers are continuous learners and are always trying to improve themselves. They want to become the best. A great sales culture commits to providing quality training and development that improves a producer’s skills and behaviors. Training and coaching is viewed as an indispensable driver of company success that will not be sacrificed when things become tougher economically. Better trained employees equal happier customers. Companies with weaker sales cultures are often penny-wise and pound-foolish and do not see personal development as a corporate responsibility.
- Establish well-defined accountability measurements. Accountability is a critical in successful sales cultures. Holding employees and their managers responsible for completing assigned tasks; performing job requirements; and personally committing to the sales organization’s goals are the glue that holds the community together. It is leadership’s job to design accountability metrics including setting milestones and measuring the activities that would achieve the corporate goals.
- Promote recognition and fun. Finally, selling is at its core, an emotional roller-coaster. Every day can be filled with numerous disappointments. On the other hand, circumstances can change very quickly and success can come easily. Great originators learn quickly that it is critical to live in the moment if they want to have long-term success in selling. The past is over and the future is for another day. Their focus is on how to make the best of the present day. To keep employees motivated, great sales cultures emphasize praise, mentorship and a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. Weak sales cultures only see money as the primary motivator.
As we approach the halfway mark of 2017, now is the time to commit to creating a great sales culture. While there is no question that it takes discipline, focus and a hard look at the sales organization, establishing a great sales culture is well worth the effort.
What does your sales culture look like today? What steps can you take to improve it?