December 9, 2022

5 Signs of a Healthy Sales Culture

Written by Karli Stone

Culture drives performance—from how much a rep sells to how engaged they are with your mission and vision. It’s important that sales leaders are regularly assessing the health of their team’s culture to keep morale up and sales high.

Read this article to learn the qualities of a healthy sales culture and ways sales leaders can create a better environment to help their reps thrive.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What we mean by “sales culture”
  • Who’s responsible for building sales culture
  • The 5 signs of a healthy sales culture
  • How to build a sales culture of the future

The definition of sales culture

What do we mean by “sales culture”?

Sales culture is the collection of a sales organization’s attitudes, habits, and values. It’s the set of “norms” that make up the day-to-day work life of team members.

The best sales cultures are competitive, collaborative, passionate, and inclusive. They give people a reason—outside of earning a paycheck—to show up to work every day and perform their best.

Who’s responsible for building sales culture?

Everyone contributes to culture building. But, it’s ultimately the sales leader’s job to ensure their team’s culture is positive and productive.

While higher-ups (i.e. founders and executives) are in charge of setting the tone for the company, sales managers and team leads are responsible for creating a sales culture that motivates and inspires their teams.

Research says that direct managers influence 80% of salespeople’s perception of a company. Every time a sales manager structures a team meeting, gives feedback, or sets a goal, they are upholding a sales culture—whether that be a positive or negative one.

5 signs of a healthy sales culture

Sign #1: Unblocked communication

“Employee checkouts happen when we feel we are not being heard, respected, or considered in the workplace. People tend to experience this as an identity threat…their reaction is to stop caring as much about their work and about the people around them.” – Chris White, Leader of the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations

Your reps won’t buy into the organization if they feel their voice isn’t valued.

In healthy sales cultures, open communication is routine. Leaders are continually inviting people to speak up They encourage input, ask questions, foster creative conflict, and actively unblock communication channels.

Sign #2: Lively sales competition

Most salespeople are confident, hungry, and goal-motivated. Sales cultures that are fast-paced and competitive give these reps the motivation they need to reach their goals.

But, there’s a fine line between harnessing positive competitive spirit and encouraging toxic rivalries. How can teams stay competitive without pitting sales representatives against each other?

  • Give teams an external competitor. Encourage salespeople to rally together and outsell your market’s top competitors.
  • Match newer reps with more experienced reps. Strategically pair up salespeople to encourage mentorship and growth.
  • Gamify sales. Use creative sales incentives that challenge and reward sellers of all skill types. Try daily challenges, team competitions, and/or contests based on retention or customer reviews.
  • Focus on personal bests. Awesome sales cultures direct a lot of competitiveness toward personal numbers and setting new PRs.

Sign #3: Maintained accountability

“If you want to have better sales results, you need a culture of accountability where people understand what’s expected of them, what they are committed to, and that they are held accountable for creating the results.” – Anthony Iannarino, Sales and Leadership Speaker and Bestselling Author of The Sales Blog

Sales accountability is the sense of ownership that salespeople feel over their jobs and their work. An accountable team takes the necessary steps to meet its goals and accepts responsibility for the outcomes.

There are a few ways to identify if a sales team promotes a culture of accountability.

First, they set clear expectations. Team members can only take responsibility for their work when they are aware of their role and what’s expected of them. Tip: Using the SMART format is a helpful way to create specific and measurable goals for your team.

Next, they encourage autonomy. A workplace that gives its employees the freedom and control over how they work empowers them to take ownership of everything they produce.

Finally, they are data-driven. Leaders in accountable environments rely on performance metrics to uncover real outcomes and to show reps their successes and areas for improvement.

Sign #4: A shared vision

There is a lot of emotion in selling. Peak performance only happens when sellers believe in the organization’s product, offerings, and mission.

Align team members towards a common goal with a distinct vision statement. For example, “Be one of the top five sales teams in the company in the next 12 months” or “Increase retention by 45% in the next 6 months.”

A good mission statement is ambitious, but also achievable. It supports a healthy sales culture by keeping reps motivated to make something positive happen—together.

Sign #5: Frequent training and coaching opportunities

B2B sales reps forget 70% of the information they learn within a week of training. Companies with successful sales cultures keep reps fresh and up-to-date with regular training and coaching.

As you look to provide reps with growth opportunities, keep the 70-20-10 model in mind.

Used by thousands of high-performing companies around the world, the 70-20-10 model states that 70% of learning experiences should be hands-on, 20% should be through coaching and mentoring, and only 10% should come from formal instruction and training.

Building a sales culture of the future

If your culture doesn’t check all these boxes, it’s never too late to make some changes. Here’s how you can start building and scaling a world-class sales culture.

Know where you are and where you want to go

Take a minute to assess your current situation. Ask yourself:

  • How do we define selling in this organization?
  • What is our informal sales culture today?
  • What best practices do we want our team to follow?
  • What are our values?
  • What habits and disciplines do we expect from our team members?

Open up the discussion and ask your team for their opinions on the current state of the workplace. Their feedback should heavily inform where changes need to be made.

Hire candidates who are the right fits

CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, once said, “There’s no tolerance for brilliant jerks. The cost to teamwork is too high.”

And he’s right: one toxic person can infect an entire organization.

As you scale your team, look to hire candidates who add value to your culture. Balance these qualities with a candidate’s skill set and potential as you assess whether or not they’ll be a good addition to your team.

Here are a few interview questions that can be used to help you hire for culture add:

  • How do you personally benefit a team when working with colleagues?
  • What skills, interests, or passions do you have that set you apart from others in this role?
  • Tell me about a problem you solved creatively.
  • What is your impression of our company culture so far?

Upgrade your tech stack

Modern sales tools promote a culture of efficiency and empower reps to do their jobs and do them well.

Ensure that your team has access to the best sales software on the market. With an end-to-end platform full of enriched contact data and time-saving sales automation tools, reps can ditch manual data entry and focus on creating human interactions and relationships.

In closing

It’s all too easy to forget about the hygiene of your sales culture. But with a consistent effort and a few (or all!) of the tips we’ve listed above, sales leaders can create a healthy sales culture that boosts employee satisfaction, as well as their bottom line.

Karli Stone headshot Karli Stone