Looking at a familiar phrase from a different perspective, how does your organization's leadership lead or impact the selling process?
The culture of any given enterprise is a reflection of its leadership, and that the sales force tends to mirror that culture when interacting with customers and prospects.
"I've never seen a company that was able to satisfy its customers that did not also satisfy its employees," said Larry Bossidy
former CEO Allied Signal, Inc.
"Employees will treat your customers no better than you treat your employees."
Others suggest that an organization tends to sell in a fashion that is directly related to how the organization buys — in other words, if the organization evaluates suppliers and makes buying decisions based primarily on price, then they also tend to sell at lower margins; and vice-versa.
Either way, as leaders, we have a profound impact on how our sales people interact with the marketplace each day, because the direct and implied messages they convey to our customers are based upon their impressions of our position on a range of issues — from how we evaluate and buy things, to how we talk about and treat customers.
Similarly, if the sales force is not enjoying high-levels of success in the marketplace, our cultural approach to improving their approach — i.e., building upon strengths versus focusing on weaknesses — can significantly impact their success or failure.
As stated in a report by Optima Media Group entitled Driving Corporate Culture for Business Success, "The CEO and the senior management team is the single most critical success factor in a culture change effort; they must personally live and role model cultural ethos."
So what can we do to positively lead or impact the selling process?
- Know our customers and maintain an understanding of their true interests, needs and priorities, taking each into account when setting policies and procedures. This alignment will send a strong message to the sales people that we are, in fact, a customer-centric organization — we care!
- Maintain consistent two-way communication with the sales force, keeping them well-informed with respect to the organization's customer-centric philosophy, and encouraging them to deliver or reaffirm that message in the marketplace and to relate back the true voice-of-the customer.
- Sell to the sales force — make sure they understand that the job can be done and that the organization has faith in their ability to do it; make sure they understand that the grass is, in fact, not greener "across the street," and that there is a secure future for them "right here" if they work hard to earn it.
- Create a sales management system that consistently and fairly inspects what it expects, and holds the sales force accountable for activity as well as results.
- Recognize and reward desired behaviors and success; motivate and retain (do not ignore!) high performers.