Home > leadership, sales > Role of culture in a sales team.

Role of culture in a sales team.

Culture is what transforms any team to greatness or failure!

Sales teams are no exceptions to this. There is a specific culture in each and every sales team, doesn’t matter if someone has carefully instilled it there or it just got there by accident.

So, what is the culture like in your team and why is it so important?

I met a sales manager recently. He indicated that he wanted to have a high performance culture in his team. When I prodded him to explain what he meant by high performance, he said that he wants everyone in his team to hit their quotas, for them to act like CEO’s of their businesses and deliver. That it did not matter, how they did their quota as long as they hit their quotas. If they can’t, he fill find out people who can.

This is one form of culture!

I met another sales manager the very same day, who works for the same organization. So, I asked him the same question. What was the culture he wanted in his sales team?

He replied that he wants each and every one of his team members to hit their quotas. They each ran their individual businesses, but had clear directions and priorities as defined by him. Some of them that he listed were as below:

  • Customer’s come first! 
  • If you need help, ask! Earlier the better!
  • If you can help one of your colleagues, go ahead and help! You might need one sooner than later!
  • Everyone in the team needs to hit their quotas – if this means, we help each other out, so be it!

This is another form of culture.

I personally think there can be 2 kinds of culture within any sales team. I call them

“Compete”  or  “Co-opete”

Sales teams with “Compete” culture:

  1. These sales teams will pitch each of the sales executives against each other.
  2. These teams will have their incentives designed such that “winner takes all or at least most of all”.Praise and humiliation happen simultaneously. Review meetings will take place in the open and those who are not able to meet their numbers taken to task in front of everyone.
  3. Individuals emerge stronger or weaker.
  4. Why and how some hit their targets is not discussed. Why and how some one missed their targets is what gets discussed.
  5. Such teams are focused only on short term (month, quarter or the year)
  6. This team does not place much emphasis on training.

Sales teams with “Co-opete” culture:

  1. These sales team work like teams. More likely they mirror the  behavior of a sports team, with the manager playing as the coach and/or captain
  2. Their incentives are designed such that the entire team wins or loses together. Individual wins don’t count unless the unit wins as a team.
  3. The team emerges stronger or weaker.
  4. Why and how a member hits their targets is discussed so that other members can learn. The strengths of a team member is used to defend someone with that weakness, so that the team wins.
  5. Such teams have the capability to focus beyond the year as well. Whether they do or not totally depends on their organization’s culture.
  6. Training is a very important element in their success.

With selling becoming more and more complex, customers getting more and more knowledgeable, economic environment getting tougher, I think the teams that play as a team with the “Co-opete” culture stand a better chance at succeeding in the foreseeable future.

What do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do let me know by commenting below or tweeting your thoughts to me @rmukeshgupta.


  1. Manas Sahoo
    December 31, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Agree with you. So, a large amount of what the culture of a “team” is and how they behave is defined by the manager and the manager’s manager and so on. so, if you want results, focus on the management….

  2. December 31, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    You are absolutely bang on.. Culture is defined by 2 things:

    – What is recognized & rewarded
    – What is celebrated

    Both these activities are a part of the management’s responsibility..

  3. January 2, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    I absolutely agree with you, Mukesh. Being the owner of the Consultative Sales Academy with strong focus on sales training, you couldn’t be more on target. When you have your sales team compete against each other it’s usually the prospect who suffers. It creates an environment of “the winner takes it all” and sales people (rather than sharing) will keep best practices close to their vest. It’s not nurturing or productive. It just fosters an atmosphere where sales people feel they should do anything to bring in a sale.

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