In recent decades, the sales culture has become a major success factor of holistic sales management. However, to make the sales culture more tangible it is necessary to understand its various facets, which include (1) customer orientation, (2) systematics, (3) openness in the exchange of information within sales, (4) cooperation across departments, (5) promotion of customer contacts, (6) trust and personal responsibility as well as (7) commitment to the company:
- In a customer-oriented sales culture, the customer is at the center of action. The starting point for all sales activities is the customer’s need and the technical possibilities of the company. However, customer orientation in sales also means to not generate sales at any price. In case of doubt, it is advisable to waive a sales deal rather than to “force” a product on the customer that does not meet his needs. Customer orientation also means to actively involve the sales department in the development of new products and thereby to represent the voice of the customer.
- A lack of systematics in the sales culture is often represented by an overcasual manner in the daily sales work. Customers of different attractiveness are treated using the “scattergun approach”, investments in customers are often based on feelings and decisions are hardly based on well-founded analyses. In contrast, a systematic sales culture is characterized by well-considered and structured decision-making (including information about customers or competitors).
- The openness in the exchange of information within sales includes the proactive forwarding of information to sales areas responsible for other products, regions, customer segments or sales channels. Especially the exchange of information on customer needs that cannot be satisfied by the own sales department can help to exploit considerable profit potential, e.g. through cross-selling.
- In open cultures, different departments pull together to find comprehensive customer solutions. Thus, not only information is exchanged, but projects are worked on jointly. Today, cross-departmental cooperation is indispensable, as customer demands are rising and the solutions for these demands are becoming increasingly complex.
- The cooperation is also linked to the promotion of customer contacts of so-called “customer remote” departments by the sales department. The sales department has to make sure that colleagues from marketing or product development also get to know and understand “their” customers. Customer forums, focus groups or trade fairs should be visited regularly by employees of internal departments.
- A sales culture of trust and personal responsibility is characterized by the autonomous work of all individuals. Responsibility is not “delegated upwards” to superiors. There is no exaggerated hedging mentality or risk aversion. Rather, employees are given a certain entrepreneurial freedom and can (and should) make decisions independently without being forced to document each of their actions.
- Commitment to the company exists if sales employees feel a connection to the company and represent it properly towards third parties. But especially in the field service of many companies this commitment is missing. The sales representatives do not signal trust in their company and its services during customer meetings. Rather, it is often observed that sales representatives and customers form a kind of “unholy alliance”. Based on cynical statements about their own company, the sales representatives become the customer’s “ally” against the company headquarters. In contrast, in cultures with a high level of commitment there is a strong team spirit and a positive sense of unity.