It’s not uncommon to face struggles when leading a sales team. However, how you handle the hurdles, overcome the challenges, and learn from mistakes made are the true marks of a great sales leader. So, the first order of business should be to evaluate your greatest challenges and get in front of them.
In a previous blog, Great Answers to Great Sales Leaders’ Greatest Challenges, I asked sales leaders to give feedback regarding their own greatest sales struggles out of the following possibilities:
- Recruiting and hiring the right individuals
- Training and developing staff
- Coaching and mentoring staff
- Managing sales rep performance
- Retaining talent
- Developing and maintaining a sales culture
- Enabling sales teams with the right tools
Overwhelmingly, the subjects related to sales talent were at the top of the list—hiring, retaining talent, and developing a sales culture. It makes sense, because these are all interlinked. The reality is it starts with the sales culture. Defining and building a sales culture will lead you to the best hiring profile, and the combination of those two will drive retention.
And whether you think it does or not, every sales organization has a sales culture. The question is does the culture create an environment that supports driving top performance, where employees want to remain. And, what happens when an existing sales culture is disrupted through an executive leadership change?
I had the opportunity to work with a new sales executive who was brought into a company to shake things up a bit and drive a more performance-based culture. The company was nervous about the impact, given the current lifestyle-type culture that had existed for many years. Management paid things outside the compensation plans, quotas had remained unchanged for years, and many people were satisfied with their base salaries, enjoying any commissions like small bonuses.
The new sales leader tightened up the adherence to plans, increased quotas on key offerings, increased earning potential for high attainment, and drove greater accountability in forecasting. While these were technically the right changes to make, this new culture no longer matched the hiring profile of the current employees and led to high turnover. The few top performers weren’t concerned; they were motivated to make money, and this new approach benefited them. However, the bottom line was the change created disruption and overall sales performance fell.
When hiring profiles, talent retention strategies, and the sales culture are in balance, you achieve a winning scenario. When there is misalignment across those three, you are bound to have tension and potentially poor performance. The key here is to pay attention to those three elements in combination with one another. Don’t just focus on one. Any change to one, without acknowledging the other two, can lead to unwanted or destructive consequences.
When hiring profiles, talent retention strategies, and the sales culture are in balance, you achieve a winning scenario.
As for the maverick sales leaders who are brought in to shake things up, the change management aspect cannot be emphasized enough. Performance can suffer as you make big modifications across these three important areas, attempting to create a new norm. While the sales leader, mentioned above, was right to correct issues and institute necessary changes, the impact of those changes was not acknowledged. Consequently, leadership was surprised when performance suffered and targets were missed. A more successful experience could have been achieved had a plan been created which took all three of these areas and how they affect one another into consideration.
Have you and your organization struggled with hiring, retaining talent, and/or developing the sales culture? Would you like to experience smoother transitions and fewer disruptions when altering your sales strategies and plans?
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