How to Overhaul Your Sales Culture

By Heather Baldwin
The economic recovery is great news for sales organizations. But at the same time it is forcing thousands of companies to reevaluate their entire sales culture. Realizing that their current sales models, processes and policies require updating, sales executives everywhere are grappling with the need to transform their sales cultures to compete in a changed market. In his book, Creating the #1 Sales Force: What It Takes to Transform Your Sales Culture (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2005), Jim Kasper, president of Aurora, Colorado-based Interactive Resource Group ( lays out a 10-step process for sales force transformation. The process, he says, is the first-ever roadmap to successful sales culture conversion. If you’re thinking about transforming your sales culture, here are the first five steps to get you started.
1. Write and sell the business case. Prepare an analysis and justification of the culture conversion for presentation to executive management. “The business case should be the basis for the entire conversion plan and provide the executive team with the how, who, when and how much of the sales culture evolution,” says Kasper. “It should include a cost/benefit analysis, an ROI breakdown, a formal presentation to the executive committee and executive commitment contracts.”
2. Organize the transformation team. Once the executive team gives your plan the nod, select a transformation team. The team should include individuals in four basic roles: transformer – the person driving the transformation; sponsor – an executive who will cosponsor the conversion or act as the transformation team’s sponsor, usually the CEO or president; advocates – people who create “overwhelming enterprisewide support during the transition process” and who counsel naysayers within the organization; and transformation agents – a representative from each functional area who must effectuate, facilitate and arbitrate any changes required in their respective departments.
3. Diagnose the organization’s current sales culture. Kasper considers this step to be the most crucial because everything that transpires going forward is based on this step. The transformation team must identify their current sales culture and its dimensions before they can create a future sales culture vision.
4. Reconcile the organization’s sales culture vision. At this step the team collectively determines the direction in which the organization would like its sales culture to shift. Don’t reinvent the wheel, says Kasper. It’s a good idea to take a look at successful cultures you’d like to emulate. “Perform a gap analysis – a series of internal perception and external marketplace audits designed to reveal the ideal sales culture vision for each respective company,” he adds. Once all the data and information are collected, compare the findings to the current sales culture, policies and practices and develop a plan called a sales skills competency progression model.

5. Sales skills competency progression model. This is the step when the proverbial rubber meets the road. In short, this model is “a comprehensive study of the organization’s current sales skill and sales management proficiencies, by individual, resulting in a recommended, customized development plan that elevates each member of the sales and sales management team to uniform, progressively higher sales practices,” says Kasper.