How to Create and Maintain a Healthy Sales Culture

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Sales Management. Simplified." by Mike Weinberg. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What makes a good sales culture? What can you, as a sales leader, do to foster a healthy culture in your business’s sales department?

A healthy sales culture is one in which salespeople feel respected, passionate, and happy in their roles. They communicate openly and respectfully with their manager and each other, and they’re willing to help out their colleagues in the pursuit of shared goals.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some tips on how to create and maintain a healthy sales culture, according to sales expert Mike Weinberg.

What Makes a Healthy Company Culture?

Opinions on what constitutes a healthy company culture differ among experts. For instance, Rework authors David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried believe that in a healthy culture, managers don’t police employees’ every action and instead trust their people to work hard. They also argue that a healthy company culture encourages employees to have a life outside of work rather than dedicating everything they have to the company.

Meanwhile, in Smarter Faster Better, Charles Duhigg argues that optimal workplace cultures encourage commitment: both employees committing fully to their employer, and the employer committing to each employee’s growth and success.

How to Foster a Healthy Sales Culture

Salespeople in a healthy culture want to work hard and generate successful sales for the company. Thus, a healthy sales culture breeds the best sales results.

In his book Sales Management. Simplified, sales expert Mike Weinberg outlines three techniques for fostering a healthy sales culture:

  1. Set goals and push people to achieve them
  2. Celebrate and reward salespeople’s high performance
  3. Avoid micromanaging or chasing personal glory

Let’s look at each technique in more detail.

1. Set Goals and Push People to Achieve Them

In Weinberg’s view, if you don’t set goals, your salespeople will be ineffective and unmotivated because they’ll have nothing to push them to work hard. Your sales culture will be one of accepted mediocrity rather than success.

(Shortform note: A key benefit of setting goals for your team, according to The One-Minute Manager, is that it’s easier to monitor their performance. If your salespeople have clearly defined targets, you’ll more easily be able to spot if their work isn’t up to par. Goals also reduce the need for micromanagement: As long as your team members are working toward their goals, you’ll know they’re working on the “right” thing, so you won’t feel the need to check up on them as often.)

Hold People Accountable to Their Goals

As well as setting goals, Weinberg argues that it’s important to hold your team members accountable to those goals and enforce consequences for poor performance. Failing to do so effectively renders all team members’ goals pointless and discourages them from pushing themselves to excel—why would any salesperson work hard to achieve a goal when they know there’s no punishment for coasting? Again, mediocrity will become the norm in your team.

Furthermore, Weinberg believes that if you fail to hold poor performers accountable, you’re letting down the entire business. In his view, having a successful sales team that generates revenue is the most important element of keeping a business afloat. By tolerating poor sales performance, you’re putting the company at risk.

(Shortform note: Is having a strong sales department really the most important factor in keeping a business going? It depends on whom you ask. Each department in a business typically thinks it’s the most important—for instance, the human resources department might argue that since it’s in charge of hiring, it most directly influences the company’s success, since, without good employees, it’s hard for a business to succeed. So, Weinberg’s claim that good sales teams are the key to businesses’ success could be rooted in the fact that he’s a former salesperson.)

Holding People Accountable Effectively

In High Performance Habits, Brendon Burchard agrees that holding your people accountable is crucial to helping them achieve (and exceed) their goals. He adds that to enforce accountability successfully, you must follow two principles:Hold people accountable firmly, but politely. Insulting or degrading struggling team members will damage your reputation not just with these individuals, but team-wide.Hold yourself accountable, too. If you fail to achieve your own goals while pressuring your team members to achieve theirs, you’ll appear hypocritical and lose your team’s respect. They’ll also ignore any future attempts to hold them accountable.

2. Celebrate and Reward Salespeople

Weinberg believes that to create a positive sales culture where your team members feel respected and happy, you must reward and celebrate their hard work. Everyone appreciates praise—and people quickly become resentful and unhappy if they feel they’re not receiving enough positive feedback.

(Shortform note: In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown argues that publicly celebrating success is crucial to maintaining an effective team. If you don’t celebrate your team members’ wins, they’ll burn out and disengage from their work.)

According to Weinberg, an easy way to reward top talent is to find out what drives them, or what they feel they need—for instance, high pay, recognition, or autonomy—and give it to them. He cautions that if you don’t do this, your top performers will leave your company to find an employer that will. 

Improve Staff Retention by Making Bonuses Fair

Weinberg argues that another key element of rewarding staff satisfactorily (and thus maintaining a positive sales culture) is making compensation packages fair—in particular, bonuses. He advises:

1) Making bonus requirements simple and achievable. In Weinberg’s experience, many sales managers make bonus requirements dependent on so many complex metrics that team members simply can’t achieve them. He warns that your people simply won’t try hard if they think they’ve got no chance of earning a bonus, thus hindering your attempts to create an effective, success-driven sales culture.

(Shortform note: Analysts add that complexity also creates distrust among employees, who may suspect that managers have deliberately made the bonus unachievably complicated to cut compensation costs. Your people may even leave their jobs due to the dissatisfaction this creates.) 

2) Ensuring compensation plans distinguish enough between poor and top performers. Weinberg notes that your top performers should make notably more than your poor performers. He argues that if these two groups earn a similar amount, your top performers will become resentful and unmotivated since their efforts won’t be rewarded fairly, and your culture will consequently suffer. 

(Shortform note: Research suggests that the consequences of rewarding poor performance are more severe than Weinberg indicates: Your top performers may leave your company if they feel the bonus system is unfair. According to a 2015 survey, around 30% of companies interviewed planned to award bonuses to their poor performers. In the same survey, more than half of respondents claimed to have difficulty retaining their most skilled performers.)

Give Top Performers Your Attention

As well as giving your salespeople fair pay, Weinberg insists that to maintain a healthy culture, you must give top performers your time and attention. Regularly check in with them, or take them out to coffee to celebrate their successes—anything to make these employees feel seen and valued. According to Weinberg, too often, sales managers focus only on coaching their weaker team members, ignoring their top talent—and nobody likes to be ignored. Ignored top performers will become resentful and your culture will suffer for it.

3. Avoid Micromanaging or Chasing Glory

Weinberg cautions against falling into various bad management traps that harm your team’s culture. In his view, bad managers usually chase glory by taking credit for their team’s successes. They also micromanage their team or even try to do their jobs for them, rather than trusting their team members to work independently.

According to Weinberg, this behavior will only generate a culture of resentment and unhappiness among your team members. It’ll also demoralize them—what’s the point in working hard if your manager is going to do your job for you then take all the credit?

How to Create and Maintain a Healthy Sales Culture

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Mike Weinberg's "Sales Management. Simplified." at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Sales Management. Simplified. summary:

  • Why the problem with most struggling sales teams is an ineffective sales leader
  • The five techniques to successfully manage a sales team
  • How to create a sales culture where your team members feel respected and happy

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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