17 July 2017

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All eight of us would sit in the café every day, eating lunch together. Everyone in the company knew who we were. There was an energy you could feel. We were a small team, but a team we were. We were at 150% of budget and on our way to being included in a small group of people who would share in a cruise on the Mediterranean at the end of the financial year. That was the prize — the goal. We were the number one team — out of five by far. We had devastated the competition. We were thought leaders in our space…before the term ‘thought leader’ became one of the new ‘buzz terms’ in business. We all loved going to work. We were assertive, intelligent, accountable, creative, responsive, having fun, and knew how to sell.

That was until they broke us up.

We were the victims of our success.

We were ‘kicking goals’ all over the place — while other sales teams weren’t doing so well.

We were consistently over budget, year after year, while the other sales teams struggled to make the number. This was not lost on the executive team and that’s when the decision was made. Let’s put Marchant over the under-performing team and move the head of the under-performing team to the performing team.


Yeah,well — let’s wait and see…

Within 3 months it was clear to everyone, except the executive team this was a huge mistake. The under performing team rejected my approach, my style, my expectations and my efforts. They didn’t see themselves as under performing, in spite of what the numbers said, and they weren’t going to change. I was unable to replicate the culture. The performing team regretted losing their leader and more importantly didn’t understand why change was required if things were working. The new leader didn’t embrace the same behaviors or have the same expectations of the performing team as I did. He didn’t maintain the culture.

Within 12 months of the change, I was gone, two other members of the performing team were gone and the culture was never the same again.

Whilst there have been some market changes, the company has yet to replicate the success it had during the times when the culture was phenomenal and everyone had ‘bought in’.


“ I came to see in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game — it is the game.

Louis Gerstner, Former CEO IBM

I read Built to Last in the late 90’s and it changed my view of business forever. 50% of success, whether it’s in sales, business, sports or family, comes from culture and if you aren’t deliberate in building culture and maintaining it, you will fail. Period.

Culture can be anything you want it to be. You get to decide, but it must contain these 6 things:

Vision: What does it mean to be a part of the group, the team etc? What is it you’re trying to create. What is the ‘point’ of the culture and the team.

Why?: Why are you doing what you are doing? Why does it matter. Why does the vision even exist? Get to why and constantly reinforce ‘why?’

(email me here trevor@trevormarchant.com and I’ll send you a copy of my 13½ Principles on High Performance Selling including why you should have a WHY.)

Behaviours: What behaviours are expected? How do you expect people to behave? What behaviour do you want to reinforce? How are people supposed to act?

Goals: How are you going to measure success? How will you and the team know you are being successful? What results are you looking for? The key here is to make sure they align with and empower the culture.

Consequences: We live in a world where the word consequences conjures up negative and harsh thoughts, but when it comes to developing and maintaining a winning sales culture there must be clear and definitive consequences for not conforming to the culture.

Cultures can’t and won’t survive without everyone embracing it to the fullest. The minute a behaviour contrary to the culture is allowed to persist, the culture is in demise, and almost impossible to turn around.

Rewards: Reinforcement is the name of the game here. It’s not enough to just set expectations. Reinforcing the expectations is critical. Spend time thinking about ways to reward the behaviours you expect from the team. Rewarding behaviours is different than rewarding results. We’ve become good at rewarding results. That’s easy. Susan makes her budget, Susan gets rewarded. Rewarding behaviours on the other hand is different. Susan works really hard and then some and flawlessly sells the biggest deal ever, but loses it in the end to the competition.

Rewarding her for how she sold the deal as the way deals should be sold is more valuable than rewarding only for the result. Make sure you find ways to reward behaviours.

As a sales leader, it’s your job to build and maintain a productive sales culture. You get to pick it, and pick you must.

Develop your sales culture, it’s not too late.

Spend the time on the 6 challenges above and you will be on your way.

Good Luck and (always) Good Selling.

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