When it comes to building a world-class sales team, corporate culture is one of the most overlooked factors of success. Given a rapidly changing economy and huge demographic shifts, many business leaders are failing to create and foster the type of company culture that attracts A-players.
This is especially true in sales, where hiring great salespeople continues to be one the biggest challenges facing corporate leaders. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project found that employers spend an average of 41 days trying to fill technical sales jobs, versus 33 days for jobs in other professions. DePaul University’s Center for Sales Leadership found that the average time to replace a hire ranged from 3.69 to 5.42 months.
While it is certainly possible to win the war over talent by attracting top performers with market-best compensation plans, it will be near impossible to retain them if there are toxic leaders and systemic issues with your company culture.
My firm has helped world-class companies build high-performance sales teams for decades, and we know that a strong company culture is an essential ingredient.
Creating a Next-Gen Culture
Here are four tips to create a company culture that will attract great salespeople:
Offer opportunities for growth. Great salespeople want to join a company that offers growth, change, and the ability to rise within the organization. In fact, a Glassdoor survey found that one in three employees leave their jobs because of a lack of career growth.
This is why you must develop and foster a reputation for rewarding success with opportunity. Some reps may seek bigger or more territories, while others may covet a managerial role. Regional VPs may be seeking a move into a C-suite position. Ultimately, when you advance employees’ careers, you make your company a magnet for the best talent in the business.
Offer market-leading compensation plans. While money is not the end all be all, it remains the most important piece of the puzzle. When your top salespeople find out that they are making less than others in the industry, morale and productivity plummet while turnover ratios increase.
According to our latest research on sales compensation plans, A-players prefer a 60/40 base-commission split, with uncapped earning potentials. And with Millennials making up larger segments of sales forces today than ever, employers that offer compensation plans with higher levels of guaranteed earnings and smaller variables will be favored over those that offer plans with higher risk and rewards.
Avoid toxic executives. In an article for The Evolution Institute, Binghamton University professor David Sloan Wilson reports that the U.S. Army defines toxic leadership as “a combination of self-centered attitudes, motivations, and behaviors that have adverse effects on subordinates, the organization, and mission performance.”
Through firsthand experience with clients, I can attest that toxic leaders decrease detention rates and hurt a company’s ability to recruit and retain the very best. Too often, company leaders are willing to overlook rumblings of subordinate unrest so long as the boss is producing. This is a short-term point of view, and executives that are very difficult need to be confronted, rehabilitated, or possibly removed.
Make diversity a priority. Employers of choice understand that equal pay for equal work and a commitment to hiring people from different backgrounds foster a healthy business environment. Great people, regardless of their background, are attracted to great working environments.
When businesses maintain an inclusive culture and pay structure, great salespeople are far more likely to want to join the organization—especially those from the emerging Millennial demographic. Millennials are now the most diverse generation in U.S. history—made up of 42% minorities and more working women than any other generation. Most organizations talk about being diverse, but world-class companies demand it and reap the rewards from it.
The business landscape is rapidly changing, but the companies that get out in front and create a next-generation corporate culture will experience the most success.
New sales managers need new tools—in recruiting, coaching, goal setting, best practices, and more—to build their sales team and maximize the skills of each member.