May 7, 2024

GTM Insider: My Framework for Building a Winning Sales Culture

Laura Palmer
GTM Insider: My Framework for Building a Winning Sales Culture

Hi there!

I'm excited to talk about something that fills up my cup—building winning, collaborative team cultures. I’ve done it before at Unity and now, I'm bringing that same energy to the team at People.ai.

Years ago–through working with a fantastic executive coach, Dennis Adsit–I realized my mission wasn’t just to put together a successful team, but to build a winning culture. This process is one of my absolute favorites, and I thought other sales leaders might find it useful.

So what goes into building a great culture? Here is my simple 4-step framework.

1. Define the culture & explain “the why”

First, you need to define what you want to build and why. Get your leadership team together to brainstorm and shape your collective vision. Ask yourselves: What do we want to build? What is most important to us?

Collect all the words that keep coming up. Decide which words should define your culture. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Recognition, Celebration
  • Customer-focused
  • Proactive, Accountable, Driven, Sense of urgency
  • Team players, Collaborative, Solutions-oriented 
  • Listens, Transparent
  • Friendly competition, Integrity
  • OK to Fail, Innovative
  • Data-driven

Come up with a simple statement describing what you seek to build.

At people.ai we're all about “a collaborative winning culture.” Now take it one step further by expanding on those top words you choose to paint the full picture. Here is an example of what that might sound like:

“The XYZ sales organization works with a sense of urgency. We hold ourselves accountable for results. We work alongside our customers to help solve their biggest challenges. We compete with integrity and celebrate wins together. We consistently overachieve our revenue targets and are integral in driving the business forward. We make smart, thoughtful decisions, and data informs everything we do.”

What “great” looks like

Remember, not everyone will automatically get it. The culture mission statement should be simple but you still need to be prescriptive in explaining what “great” looks like. You are setting the bar: “If you want to be on this team, here's what we expect.” 

You’d be surprised how differently things can be interpreted. It may seem obvious to you, but trust me, everyone has a different lens. Your newer sellers have likely never been told this before. If the expectation is “very high activity levels," be as specific as possible (X meetings, X cold calls, X emails a week, etc.).

Area of Focus
Specifics/Metrics
Very high activity levels
  • Significant and consistent amount of weekly customer interactions to drive net new business. Managers determine specific goals but at least X meetings/week
  • Focused on ways to build strong personal relationships with customers, limit internal meetings to X hours a week
Work with a sense of urgency
  • Immediate customer follow-up (<<1 day)
  • Never (EVER, EVER) leave a meeting without knowing the next step
  • Quick follow-up on all leads (x days)
  • Gain customer commit early
  • Hold internal stakeholders accountable (define what this means in your organization)
Always prepared
  • Solid account plans
  • Accurate forecasting
  • Territory Plan in place - knows how to get to the number
  • Consistent meeting prep involving key stakeholders (this can all be automated with People.ai)
Consistency
  • Hits quarterly and annual targets
  • Forecasts business appropriately and with accuracy
  • CRM is always up-to-date and accurate (automated with People.ai)
Collaborative
  • Works as a team
  • Not afraid to lose or not know the answer… willing to find the answer
  • Brings others into their deals

2. People, Process, Technology

This is where the heavy lifting takes place. Defining your culture is one thing, but bringing it to life? That’s where the magic happens!

Make sure you have the right people to embody the culture, the right processes to nurture it, and the right tech to empower your team.

For instance, if being data-driven is your goal but you're missing a data platform, it's time for a change. Transparency in your vision? Share the why behind decisions. And if your compensation plan doesn’t align with your mission to chase new revenue, tweak it to reward those hustling for new businesses and performing well.

Simply popping your vision onto a slide won't do much. You need the right people, processes, and tech to give it legs. Think about what you need to change that already exists and what you need to build to support your cultural vision.

For each thing you need to shift or change, outline the behavior shift or outcomes.

Change
Behavioral Shift/Outcome
Revised compensation plan to XYZ
Focused team on net new business. Rewards high performers. Shifts to proactive thinking.
Processes: Forecasting calls, weekly meetings, account reviews, territory reviews
Builds accountability. Begins to provide data to make decisions. Creates visibility.
Remove busy work with AI and automation
Automated sales activity tracking, no more missing items in CRM.
Transparency/Visibility
Data is democratized with AI, entire account team can see everything happening in an account, no info living in someone’s head.

3. Garner support from other internal functions

People are so important that they are a key element in every part of this framework. If you do it right, your people will enable the culture. 

“Sales” can’t be a bad word. Reach across the aisle to other functions in your organization and share your vision for the culture. Tell the story of the why through their lens and how it ties into their objectives.

If you work for an engineering-driven organization, frame your cultural vision in a way that resonates with them. How is being customer-focused going to help engineering achieve their goals? For example, “We want to fund the engineering projects that make our customers happy and our product excellent.”

4. Reiterate and reinforce

Culture building is not a one-and-done project. If we, as leaders, are not living and breathing our culture, how can we expect our teams to? You need to set the example.

Beyond that, start including “culture checks” in your processes. This could be infusing the expectations and results in your performance reviews,  your team meetings, and employee surveys. 

Pay attention to what’s going on. I recently saw a Slack message asking if anyone had a slide for a very specific type of customer. Several people responded with help right away. That tells me things are working. People are being collaborative and want to win as a team. On the flip side, if you notice people asking for help and no one is jumping in, that should ring alarm bells. Something with your culture isn’t clicking.

One exercise I like to implement is called Deal Labs. It’s a group exercise using critical thinking to review a deal with the person running it. The goal is to come up with every possible thing that could kill the deal. Then, as a team, brainstorm all the ways to solve for those potential issues. It gets everyone working together, is fun, and helps win more business. 

I hope this helps! I’d love to hear how you are building your sales culture.

Be bold. Sell smart.

Laura Palmer
Chief Revenue Officer | People.ai
LinkedIn

Want more insights from Laura? Sign up for her newsletter, GTM Insider!

Learn all of the ways People.ai can  drive revenue growth for your business