Dispelling five myths about building a best-in-class sales culture

Randy Illig

When a sales organization realizes “we need to change,” it’s a golden opportunity to adopt the mindset and habits that truly support a high-performance sales culture.  As I last wrote, we know it’s possible to outline the formula for sales performance transformation—that it’s not an elusive process, but one that can be reliably expected to deliver success if executed correctly. 

But I’ve frequently observed a number of common beliefs that can actually thwart an organization’s ability to succeed. Here are some misconceptions we’ve seen from our work over the past 10 years that should set off the alarm bells:                                                                                                                               

Myth: “Our people are experienced. They don’t need training.”

Unfortunately, experienced workers often simply have more practice at doing things poorly. People typically learn their job in the first 1-2 years, so 20 years of experience is just as likely to mean two years of experience repeated 10 times.

Myth: “Investing in the sales organization to improve our sales capability won’t make an impact in this year’s revenue line.”

Oh, yes, it can. To use a sports metaphor, in most sales situations you’re not competing against Tiger Woods, you’re competing against your next-door neighbor Joe, who’s using his dad’s golf clubs. Your people aren’t up against your competitors’ top 1% or even top 5%, but against your competitors’ 95%. If your sales people can do a few things really well that distinguish them in the customer’s eyes, you can win — and make a huge difference very quickly.

Myth: “Selling can’t be taught. Either you can sell or you can’t.”

When someone claims that sales performance improvement training is a waste of time — or a leader talks of having made failed investments in sales training — it often turns out that previous efforts resulted in many individual success stories. The problem was that the organization didn’t apply the follow-through to translate individual successes into an enterprise-wide success. 

Myth: “We have a whole HR organization. They’re experts in this space.”

Expecting HR to transform your sales organization is like asking your neighbor to raise your children. Sales leaders often miss that if they build a great sales organization—one that outsells the competition—the numbers will follow.  This is the job of sales leadership.

Myth: “It’s too hard and it costs too much.”

The truth is, building a high-performance sales culture and capability doesn’t have to be hard, and it only costs too much if you try to do too much. By slowing down, selecting your target, and periodically measuring and refreshing your efforts, you can actually avoid going through a hard and expensive process.

Have you seen these myths in action?  What other myths have you seen impede an organization’s ability to build a high-performance sales culture?

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