While many companies promise to build their organization around the needs of their customers, few companies can claim that they organize themselves around the needs of their salespeople. Yet the two are inevitably linked: in a sales-focused culture in which the entire company (not just the sales department) is involved in selling, salespeople are more successful and customers are more satisfied. Highly successful companies not only create customer-focused organizations but also back up their commitment with sales-focused cultures.
What are the elements of a sales-focused culture? Ideally, a company sells at three distinct levels. At the C-level, top executives set the tone for the organization by clearly articulating the company's mission, vision, and values. While the company's mission describes the noble purpose of the organization (selling meaning), the vision statement induces people to aim their effort toward greater future achievements (selling inspiration). The description of the company's values provides a sensible guide for creating relationships (selling trust). For a true sales culture to exist, C-level executives need to continuously sell meaning, inspiration, and trust to the company's employees, customers, suppliers, and shareholders. Research shows that companies whose employees understand the mission, vision, and values enjoy a greater return than other firms.
At the middle level, sales and marketing departments create messages that are in sync with the company's mission, vision, and values. While marketing creates the brand promise, sales delivers by elevating the customer relationship to a branded sales experience. The key to a true sales-focused culture is to align sales and marketing.
At the street level, salespeople act as company ambassadors who are fluent in two languages: the customer's language and the company's language. They are able to diagnose the right problems and deliver the right solution. Ideally, the sales team's internal and external relationship skills will build a competition-proof connection between the company and clients that will ultimately extend from the mailroom to the boardroom.
To borrow an analogy from the world of music, C-level selling is like an overture that offers a preview of imminent excitement and drama. Midlevel selling engages people with a catchy tune that resonates pleasantly in the customer's mind. Person-to-person selling is more like jazz, which is the art of the moment. Good salespeople can instantly improvise and hit the right note at the right time to turn the right prospect into a happy customer.
Very few companies are able to act in concert from top to bottom. It takes an enlightened CEO and highly talented sales and marketing teams to create a sales-focused culture with all members of the organization playing their part in a symphony that inspires the customer’s delight. It's easier said than done, but the results can be magic for top-line and bottom-line growth.