Sales Executive Corner

Three Core Principles to Building a Culture of Sales Excellence

Matt Millen, SVP of Revenue 's Avatar

Matt Millen, SVP of Revenue

Yes, you’re leading a sales team. But you’re also leading a team of human beings.

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Sales excellence isn’t driven solely by a killer sales strategy. Yes, you have to create a quota-crushing team that’s always hungry for the next deal. But driving numbers alone isn’t what creates a legacy of sales excellence; how you lead your people is just as important. At Outreach, we believe our sales team’s success is possible because of the support they get from leadership. Our core values, which include grit, honesty, and having each other’s backs, is the foundation upon which a culture of sales excellence can be built.

I sold car washes as a kid, carried a bag throughout the 80s, and have led national sales teams for the last 20 years. Along the way I’ve learned a thing or two about developing a culture of sales excellence through supportive leadership. What it comes down to is building respect and rapport with the human beings you’re guiding and leading. I’ve found that there are three core principles every leader should follow to create a culture of sales excellence:

1. Have empathy for your team.

Oftentimes, we’re too focused on the numbers and metrics, taking a clinical approach to business. Some leaders never carried the bag or experienced working in the trenches before they earned their position of leadership. Even those leaders who did carry a bag seem to have amnesia, forgetting what it takes to make business possible at all levels. This can cause a disconnect between the everyday heroics of what your people are doing to make their numbers come through, and the challenges you’re facing as the person at the top. But if your team is going to trust you, they need to know that you understand and appreciate what it takes to win.

You also need to demonstrate your willingness to be there in the trenches with them. It’s important to jump in and attend the tough meetings, hop on sales calls, and be the first one willing to talk to an angry customer. I need to show my people I am right there with them, to help them solve the tough problems or take tasks off their plate and let them run.

2. Give yourself and your team permission to have fun.

Share your positive energy with your team. As I sit here writing this article, I have EDM blasting and a football ready to go on my desk. I want to show my team that it’s okay to have fun- having fun is fundamental to being human. This helps me connect with my team and show them that I’m interested in getting to know who they are as individuals. Tossing a football around and hanging out with my team gives me the opportunity to get to know them person to person, rather than boss to employee. If your employees understand that you’re a person--someone they can toss a frisbee with or talk to--they’ll be more open with you. It’s about building a culture of honesty, because I want my employees to feel comfortable with me. They are then often willing to give me feedback they may not have given me otherwise, and that’s a gift.

3. Always do the right thing.

This comes down to our core value of always having each other’s backs. Instead of just reading off the contract to a customer, or reciting the company handbook to an employee, great leaders are able to gut-check and ask, “Does this feel right?” Whether I’m dealing with an employee or a customer, I always step into their shoes and evaluate if I am treating them how I would want them to treat me. Great leaders need to show humanity and compassion because at the end of the day, we’re leading a team of human beings, not robots. If you learn how to do the right thing--and in many ways this isn’t something that can be taught, but instead, it’s a mindset--it will come back to you in multitudes.

Ultimately, if you do the right thing, have a bit of fun, and truly empathize with your people, they will respect you. And it’s that mutual respect that leads to a foundation from which sales excellence can be built. If your team respects you as their leader, they’ll feel supported and motivated enough to naturally develop that winning mindset. Your people won’t just be led by you--they’ll want to be led by you. And that makes the number-crushing and deal-closing part of being a leader that much more rewarding.


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