Friday, October 29, 2010

How to Develop a Sales Culture

By Tim I Millett

If you want your sales to increase then all you need to do is introduce training programs to develop a sales culture! There are two intrinsic mistakes in the above statement. Firstly, it is believing that sales training is the only thing that will produce sales results. And secondly, it is believing that somehow training alone will create any kind of culture.

The truth of the matter is that training is indispensable in supporting a successful sales culture, but it cannot succeed in isolation.

Let's look at the first of these assumptions. Coming home from a shopping expedition, whether it is to buy shoes or a golf club, what would you tell your partner - "Look at the shoes/golf club I just bought" or "Look at the shoes/golf club I was just sold"? Like most of us, you would choose the first as, from your perspective as a customer, you have been doing the buying. That is what customers do.......they buy from us, and all too often we don't acknowledge that and only approach the sale from how we sell to them.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make in sales is to ignore the opportunities we have to make our customers feel comfortable in buying from us through the many layers of service that we provide - before, during and after the sale. And not just service provided by the sales department, but by every level of the organisation, whether or not they have any direct contact with the customer.

It does not matter how often we say as part of our service "credo" that we care, that we are professional, that our customers can rely on us. Our customers won't believe us until we show them that we care through the relationship that we build with them and the personalised service we provide; that we are professional through the absence of mistakes and our attention to detail; or that we are reliable through our prompt follow up and our pro-active approach to problems.

If our customers don't feel comfortable in buying from us, then they will buy from someone else. It's as simple as that!

And now to culture. People often comment "you can't teach attitude". And, coming from both a service and a training background, I agree.......however I firmly believe that you can develop attitude and a commitment to excellence. As Aristotle said "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." And it requires a lot more than just training to develop that attitude - it needs a corporate culture that unashamedly values the attitude you are trying to create. No organisation can train for every service eventuality, but it can strive to create an environment where its people feel empowered to provide the kinds of service and treating their customers as they would like to be treated.

The single most important skill in bringing that value to life lies in developing a culture that clearly indicates what behaviours are important to you - from the top all the way through the organisation. Because if the people at the top don't show what cultural elements are important to them, then these will never be important to the people further down the organisation.

So if you want to create a culture where the customer buying experience is exceptional, then it can't start on the shop floor. It has to start with the culture created by the team in the boardroom that values such attitudes.

The sort of behaviours that will support this cultural development include the reinforcement and celebration of desired actions and activities, as well as directly addressing those actions and activities that undermine the cultural integrity of the organisation.

Which brings us back to training. And one of the ways that the organisation can show that they are committed to a customer centric environment that supports outstanding experiences in the buying process, is to introduce training programs that are more than just about closing skills and objections handling. Indeed they must also address the environment and motivation behind these actions. These will be needed to lay the foundations, deliver the skills and help to develop the attitudes that will support such an environment.

But the training will be just a part of the solution - not the entire solution!