Building a Sales Culture: Leaders Must Walk the Values Walk

Recently I was asked by the University Of Sydney Business School to talk to an MBA class about “Creating a Sales Culture”.  First of all I must say I’m always happy to take these kind of  opportunities because you can learn so much from a class such as this, as much from them as they from you in fact.  Their insight and response and questions are always very refreshing.

Within my own company we didn’t formally think about our Sales Culture until we began to expand inter-state.  That isn’t to say there was no culture previously of course, we just hadn’t taken the time to define it.  We hadn’t considered it cognitively.

But when we started opening new offices, we realised that while culture may breed by osmosis within one physical location, it didn’t travel well across geographies without some sort of definition.  So at that stage we sat down to try and articulate what our culture had become and what we stood for as a company.  Quite surprisingly, it has been one of the most important strategies we’ve put in place and the results of which to this day are palpable from the minute you step inside our offices.  We call it the “X-Factor” and we have found it to be very powerful as it has become ever-present in everything we do as an organisation.

Every organisation has a Culture.  The class asked me to define a Sales Culture, and I did so by talking about it as the reflection of what an organisation wants to be, how it wants to be perceived and most importantly, how it wants to be considered different from others.  We defined our Sales Culture through a series of Core Values such as “Good enough is not enough,” “Listen before talking” and “Always seek to delight our customers.”

Values are powerful because they are a helpful starting point for new staff, they help gu   ide the ongoing management of people and instinctively frame the way you go-to-market.  A set of Values ensures a consistency in engagement with stakeholders and sets the roadmap for the journey your customers take with you.  For that very reason, an organisation’s Sales Culture is about more than just the Sales team and must extend across the organisation – to marketing and customer service for instance – even (perhaps especially) to reception!

My final message to the MBA class is perhaps the most enduring lesson I have taken from this journey.  Culture is reflected in stories about the organisation, its events…its heritage; and the easiest way to demonstrate it is for business leaders to walk the Values walk themselves.  This, I have learned, is central to what business leadership is about.  I am hoping the business leadership of tomorrow embraces this because it has certainly been an epiphany for me.