When salespeople fail to live up to the culture code

by Chris Young - The Rainmaker

How would you define your company culture? Your sales culture?

Often, a company’s culture consists of a carefully-contrived paragraph of corporate speak that does not actually say much. Think of most company’s vision or mission statements.

Companies frequently believe they can similarly “set” their culture and, well, that’s that. The resulting, carefully-curated “culture” most certainly does not accurately represent the day-to-day relationships and tone of the organization.

This is the number one reason why Sales Wolves leave organizations. Like attracts like. Sales Wolves expect to be pushed. They expect to learn from other Sales Wolves. They expect to share their best strategies in exchange for the same from fellow Sales Wolves. This is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately few sales organizations have even one Sales Wolf, let alone two or three. And accordingly, they most certainly do not have a strong sales culture.

Every sales organization and company has a culture.

But, is the culture in alignment with achieving the desired goals?

Are the desired and actual cultures in close alignment?


Missed opportunity.

alvaro-mendoza-602538-unsplashMost sales cultures are a result of some slow, natural evolution, because sales leadership is unaware that a sales culture can be quantified, or does not feel it necessary to improve it.

A company’s and sales team’s culture is a direct reflection of the collective mindset of every salesperson and employee team member.

A sales culture must absolutely be defined and compared to reality. The Culture Gap should be objectively-quantified. There are powerful tools that accomplish this task. What gets measured gets improved.

Companies can create missions, visions, and guiding values in an attempt to shape the future, but they must continuously measure their cultures and make sure the right talent, systems and accountabilities are in place to create their desired cultures.

The two keys here are measurement and incremental improvement. Unfortunately, both are rare.


All problems start at the head.

It is extremely common to find the significant variance between the desired and actual culture code of a sales organization. Non-Wolf CEOs rarely set culture codes that are beyond their grasp.

william-stitt-111353-unsplashGod has a sense of humor. Non-Wolf CEOs lack the capacity to grasp the gravity, the precarious nature of their current state. Non-Wolf CEOs do not work to change their current state until a competitive threat of technological change provides them no other choice. Even then, they fail to properly grasp the precariousness of their future. They are guardians of the status quo.

Most CEOs are Non-Wolf CEOs. There are a precious few CEOs that are themselves Sales Wolf CEOs that I coin “Get-it” leaders. One of the primary characteristics of “Get-it” CEOs is that they proactively and continuously seek ways to improve their sales talent, sales systems, and culture.

As opposed to Non-Wolf CEOs, Get-it CEOs, on the other hand, are paranoid. They often have gasoline and matches in hand burning their own metaphorical boats. As a result, they are constantly examining and refining their culture to ensure it aligns with their goals, and are carefully cultivating that culture internally.

There are some important CEO distinctions to keep in mind:

  • All problems start at the head. The CEO sets the tone and ultimately creates and enforces accountabilities. The more “tolerant” a CEO is of the space between the desired and actual sales culture code, the more likely the sales team will perform at a reduced level of sales performance. The more tolerant a CEO is of hiring the wrong salespeople and allowing them to stay on board, the lower the sales performance. The more tolerant a CEO is of the sales team not adopting best sales practices (systems), the lower the sales performance. The more tolerant a CEO is to a lack of accountability for activity, sales performance, and living up to the culture code, the lower the sales performance. ALL problems start at the head.
  • All problems walk on two feet. Each sales team member adds to or destroys value from the desired culture code or baseline.


Never feel satisfied.

Recognizing and cultivating a successful sales culture is really a matter of simple math. Quantify and measure everything. Stop strategies that do not work and/or destroy value. Double down on strategies that do work.

One strategy that works amazingly well is benchmarking every sales role and hiring only salespeople markus-spiske-1301215-unsplashwith the requisite sales hiring scorecard or job match. This requires the correct sales personality combined with the requisite education, experience, and background.

Yet, precious few organizations follow this protocol. Instead, they are rife with sales managers, HR reps, hiring managers, and recruiters who erroneously believe they have an innate gift for recognizing sales talent. This is an outdated and dangerous belief that must be snuffed out immediately.

Or in some cases, organizations hire Sales Wolves with the correct sales personality and background. But, the culture code of the organization does not meet the standards of the Sales Wolves.

This can be remedied if the sales selection and hiring strategy is focused only on Sales Wolves. Existing Sales Wolves will see this and see hope. But it requires the right type of leadership to identify and remedy any issues before they result in lost talent.

Get-it CEOs are never satisfied. They never quite arrive at their objective. They keep raising the bar for themselves and their sales teams. They fix issues before they can cause massive damage, and proactively look for opportunities to improve. This is the ideal state.


The ideal sales culture code.

accomplishment-achievement-adults-1059118Perhaps you are struggling to define your sales culture. Or you recognize something is “off” about your culture but cannot pinpoint the deficiencies. It can help to understand what is contained in the ideal sales culture code.

The ideal sales culture code includes:

Radical Candor. Radical candor speeds up improvement. This can be difficult to achieve when sales teams are comprised of family and friends, but it is critical.

Trust. For obvious reasons.

Respect. For obvious reasons.

Accountability. The buck stops at MY feet.

Do the work. Nothing beats the grind; get the work done.

Constant gentle pressure. Always be improving.

The ideal sales culture code is nurtured through modeling the way and reinforcing supporting behaviors.

If your salespeople or Sales Managers fail to live up to your sales culture code, it is for one of the two following reasons:  

  1. They cannot because they are not Sales Wolves.
  2. They will not because their leadership/management are not Sales Wolves themselves.

Both reasons are avoidable and fixable when identified and steps are taken at an early enough juncture. The solution is in essence, a very simple one. Select and hire only Sales Wolves. Only Wolf Class Sales Managers should be allowed anywhere near Sales Wolves. Most organizations are incapable of doing this themselves. To minimize loss and avoid total calamity, it is always best to bring in experts.


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