When it comes to company culture, sales teams always seem to get the worst reputation. Negative stereotypes plague the profession — with salespeople being seen as pushy, manipulative, and willing to close a deal at any cost. But, for many organizations, this stereotype simply doesn’t represent their team. For us at Wistia, we’ve made it a point to ensure our sales team is full of curious, empathetic, self-starters who are committed to adding value to our customers’ lives.
We focus on hiring individuals who bring something new to our team and we do our darnedest to ensure our culture never aligns with the negative stereotypes. But we’re not alone in this; there are many other companies who share our relationship-focused approach to sales. And we all know that it takes effort to foster and grow a group of people with different strengths, aspirations, and identities. To chat more on the subject, we brought in our friend Lori Richardson to discuss how leaders can build a high-performing sales culture where everyone (and we mean everyone) can thrive.
In case you’re not already familiar, Lori is the CEO of Score More Sales and the President of WOMEN Sales Pros. She founded Score More Sales in 2002 to help companies grow revenues through strategic sales efforts, using lessons learned from her 20 years in B2B sales and leadership roles. Beyond increasing the effectiveness of sales teams, Lori’s dedicated her career to growing the number of women in sales leadership. Pretty impressive, right? We couldn’t be more excited to sit down and get her thoughts on this important subject.
Lori describes a good sales culture as a place where everyone feels comfortable — and feels a sense of mutual respect across the team. Everyone on a team has a role in developing the sales culture she describes: Corporate executives can prevent cultural silos between the sales team and the rest of the company; managers can develop people with different skills and communication styles; and reps can encourage each other to be the best versions of themselves. Like most things, it really is a team effort.
“Lori describes a good sales culture as a place where everyone feels comfortable — and feels a sense of mutual respect across the team.”
So, if you want to build a more inclusive team, what do you do? Finding effective salespeople who share your company values requires intentional hiring. Lori recalls going into companies where there were still only men on the sales team. Leadership often blamed their lack of diversity on a lack of qualified candidates — but thanks to a proliferation of diversity and inclusion research, she’s seeing the tides change. That said, even though more leaders want to increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities on their teams, they still struggle to find candidates.
If this is you, and you’re ready to welcome different perspectives on your sales team, Lori recommends expanding your hiring activities by:
- Relying less on your status quo: Recruiting from your typical places will continue to yield the same type of candidates. You should be willing to switch it up a bit.
- Looking for candidates in unconventional places: You shouldn’t feel obligated to hire people who have been in your industry. Many people in service industries and retail have customer service skills that would make them successful in a sales role.
- Test individuals to help assess the right candidates: An objective assessment that shows whether someone can — and will — sell can help to eliminate bias in the interview process. You could implement role playing games as part of the interview process to get a feeling for how an individual will overcome objections, or have the candidate put a proposal together to see how they actually work. Anything you can do to assess their work (instead of what’s only on their resume) will help you make connections with new sales talent.
It sounds simple, but to retain high-performing employees, leaders must have the ability to discover what motivates the individuals on their team. Spoiler Alert: It’s not always money! Sometimes, it’s public recognition, access to C-suite executives, or working on higher profile deals. It’s a leader’s job to tease out exactly what it is that the individual wants, and then help them reach their personal and professional goals.
But if you want to retain top talent, knowing what motivates your team isn’t quite enough. Leaders must also understand that people can have different communication styles and sales approaches, and still achieve — or surpass — their goals. One of Lori’s clients once expressed that a female employee of his wasn’t “aggressive enough” to which Lori replied,
“You don’t have to be aggressive to be good in sales. And particularly in this day and age, you need to not be aggressive. And those old cold calling and aggressive strategies, and those horrible emails — canned emails people send — doesn’t work anymore. Now, you have to build relationships and you need to listen to people, and you need to empathetic. And that’s what a lot of women are really good at.”
Too often, there’s a lack of visibility into the sales team and their process. At Wistia, we think that if you bring together a team of people you’re proud of, then you should share them with the world. That’s one reason, out of many, why all of our marketing videos are cast with Wistia employees. In the sales context, this means that you should treat your sales outreach as a fundamental brand touch.
When it comes to making meaningful brand touches, your goal is to make a connection with your audience, right? That perfectly aligns with sales, because a salesperson’s ability to connect with the potential buyer is crucial to their success. Make your salespeople more successful by empowering them to use video. This can help them increase visibility and add authenticity to what would’ve otherwise been a faceless sales team.
“If you can’t be there in person, do the next best thing [video], and let people get to know you, not just the prim and proper corporate person.”
Lori also cautions that you should keep the negative sales stereotypes in mind when it comes to creating the content for your videos. She’s seen videos that display unappealing stereotypical sales culture which can undermine what a team was trying to accomplish. Your sales team’s videos should be consistent with who you are and you should be ready and willing to be your authentic selves. Ultimately, your sales culture is a reflection of your team’s values. And if you have solid values, then you shouldn’t be afraid to share your team’s culture with the world. Plus, people love buying from people they know and trust. So, the more your sales team can show that they’re real, trustworthy humans — the more likely they’ll be able to foster connections that can lead to higher sales.
At the end of the day, hiring the right people, working to ensure they’re successful, and doing your best to dispel sales stereotypes using video can really transform your organization.
Are you doing anything at your company to foster a healthier sales culture where everyone thrives? Let us know in the comments section below!