How to Build a Sales Culture

· by Nat Banks

Nat is HTI's VP of Corporate and Legislative Affairs. He started his career with HTI in 2005.
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March 5th, is Sales Person Day, so let’s dive into how to build a successful business development program.

I am fortunate that I work with a company which has experienced consistent, very high-level new business growth almost year over year. I have also been exposed to and talked with many companies with ineffective business development experiences. Let’s try to understand the components of a successful Sales program.

There are several similarities that successful, growing organizations have in common. Let’s narrow them down to what I call three “key components” of these sales organizations:

  1. A robust Sales Training Program
  2. An understanding of the importance of effective Sales Management
  3. They create Sales Driven Organization company culture

Before we go further into these let’s have a couple of relevant assumptions. First, your product or service is at least somewhat credible and sellable. I.e., when compared to your competitors you can compete on an even level. Secondly, your sales reps are reasonably capable. They don’t have to be super stars, just capable.

The Sales Training Program

Effective and ongoing Sales Training is critical to ongoing new business growth. This is the first component to help you figure out how to build a sales culture. Too many companies hire a rep, give them a territory map, a cold call list, and tell them to hit the phones. This in no way prepares a sales team to be effective. Every rep should be trained in every step of the selling process. There are many excellent sales trainers on the market.  In our company we designed our own program named Discover-Design-Deliver. Without going into too many details, we want all our reps to ask the right questions and understand the prospect’s needs before we begin to talk about our own company. In short, the outdated but still used selling philosophy of ABC…Always Be Closing, is the opposite of what we do. We always want to gain more information before we articulate a value proposition. Other aspects of effective sales rep training include:

  • Cold calling
  • Phone calls
  • Territory management
  • Prospect management
  • Managing the selling moment
  • Presentation skills
  • How to frame a question
  • And many more

The Sales Manager

The most over-hyped, ineffective, and over-valued position I see in the sales world is the so-called Sales Manager.

Most sales managers have a few things in common…they ride around and tell reps what they are doing wrong, they intimidate and threaten, and yet they always seem to be there when a deal is actually closed, and thus gain at least partial credit. I tell sales managers that you have one and only one responsibility. Your job is to make the reps successful. When a sales rep fails, you have failed. One manager actually bragged to me that almost 80% of their reps are gone within six months because they “can’t cut it.” He did not like it when I told him (in front of his boss) that he is only 20% effective in his role.

A good sales manager understands the strengths of each rep he works with, and she puts them in place to be successful.

Every rep will have natural talents, and areas of growth. Use the talents as much as possible, and help them in areas of growth. As an example, Bob may be a terrific cold caller, but lacks in connectivity and making presentations. Katrina is very engaging and gives a great presentation, but lacks in initial appointment set up. Don’t be afraid to have these two reps work together as their skill sets enhance each other. Another way to assist success is for YOU, the manager, to work with them in their areas of need. Have Bob set up appointments and YOU assist with the presentation, and the next week YOU are making cold calls with Katrina. Successful sales managers are constantly strategizing how to get the best performance out of the sales reps skillset.

A sales team is designed to close deals.

Don’t let in-house management initiatives get in the way of managing a sales team. In short, use common sense and remember the desired outcome. This is a critical piece of how to build a sales culture. I worked with a company who was very upset that in consecutive years they lost their top biller to the same competitor, and they were beginning to lose customers and market share. In the V.P of sales office with the CEO, I noticed awards for Sales Reps of the Year…which paid out a bigger bonus and a trip. When I asked why the two departed reps were not on the list they answered… “because the award was equally weighted on billings, paperwork, weekly phone call goals, etc.” My response was, “and do you really need me to explain why your top billers are leaving?”


A Sales Driven Organization

The most successful organizations are what we call a “sales driven” organization. What that means in short is that every member of the company understands they have an ability and responsibility to affect new business. They can always be on the lookout for new information that can lead to an appointment, and build new relationships that could assist with a prospect meeting. Most importantly, the organization trains them to articulate what the company does, why they are awesome, and when to turn information over to a sales rep. The idea that only the sales team sells is outdated an ineffective.

Here are some differences between a sales driven organization and an operations driven organization:

Operations Driven Culture Sales Driven Culture
Company reputation of great customer services. Company reputation of great customer service.
Gains sales by customer referrals Company sells pro-actively
Organization leaders are operations focused Organization leaders are sales AND operations focused
People say “What’s in the pipeline?” I have a lead for the pipeline
Evaluate new opportunities and rate them Can’t wait to impress the prospect
Well respected by our customers Well respected by the community
Reward programs for customer service Reward programs for customer service and lead development
Great sales department selling Whole company sells


Hopefully this info helps in building your effective sales program. We have debunked a few sales myths that may be dragging your effectiveness down.

Sales is not about:

  • Being a super impressive, talkative, naturally born seller
  • Developing strict analytics and running off the under performers
  • Having the world’s best product and only the reps sell it

A successful business development program is more about sales training, effective management, and educating the entire organization on how they can assist in company growth.