In a recent podcast, I mentioned the effects of what Dr. Sull and his colleagues at MIT call the “Toxic Five” factors creating the lowest reviews of work cultures in Glass Door Reviews. These were:
- Being disrespectful to reps (treating them like a number, not listening to their ideas, or using words or behaviors that devalue a person like: “Why were you so stupid,” or, “Will you ever …”)
- Non-inclusive (cliques, favoritism, people feeling left out), cronyism in promotions … In the surveys I’ve done with salespeople, “They play favorites” often comes up.)
- Unethical (illegal activities, dishonesty) towards customers, between reps, or between reps and the service team or other departments.
- Cutthroat (intentional acts to make others look bad and to bring them down) and individual strategies to gain over others and to get them fired or demoted.
- Abusive (shouting, yelling at others.)
As a consequence, these behaviors do not build people up or create an engaged culture of sales reps who want to give extra effort. The only people who thrive are the individuals who enjoy a type of “anything goes culture”—a culture where everyone works to get what they can from it no matter the moral or behavioral method employed.
People who value respecting others, customer service, fairness, ethics, kindness and self-control leave to work elsewhere. This resulting morality vacuum has its origins in the company’s leaders and their values and beliefs. It impacts what they are willing to admonish, correct and regulate. They, by their example, whether by action or inaction, create the often sociopathic attitudes which form the fraudulence we have seen displayed by corporations like Enron and Wells Fargo.
Also, a large company, basically moral as a whole, can have disparate parts get away from it as a rogue division, market area or store. The toxic culture present there continues and undermines a company’s brand in that area until the resulting turnover, customer escalations, lawsuits, and employee theft create the necessary managerial correction and attention.
Let’s spend our time constructing the values and beliefs of a great sales organization, one with high sales and incomes for its people, and one with 5-Star customer service, loyalty, repeat business and high referrals.
To do this, I want you to embrace “The Magnificent and Transformative 5.” These are 5 values and beliefs that drive the sales systems of outstanding sales cultures, their values, and their underlying beliefs. They directly oppose the “Toxic Five.”
- Respect for the Individual
- Inclusivity and Fairness for All
- Ethical and Honest Practices
- People Development
- Kind and Direct Clarity
It’s important to note that an entire podcast or book could be written for each of these. For now, I will, for the sake of brevity and time, provide definitions and a few examples of each in action.
The Respect for the Individual
Wikipedia has an interesting other term, “Respect for Persons, which is the concept that all people deserve the right to fully exercise their autonomy.” People are different. They have different ways of seeing things, and, while we can differ with them, when we seek to understand them prior to directing, advising or correcting, we show we value their opinion; and, therefore, respect what they say or believe.
When leading or selling to people, we ask questions and listen first before coaching or selling them. Then, we listen for feedback afterwards. This shows we’ve respected their ideas, their concerns, and their thoughts in our communications. Having an open-mind shows respect. It shows we value the person and that we respect differences of opinions.
Customers, the reps you lead, and the children you parent will appreciate this. Other forms of respect include saying thank you with sincerity and seeking to know if their sales and income goals might be higher than what you want for them as a company requirement; in other words—quota. Micromanagement removes autonomy from the individual and disrespects them as a capable person.
Inclusivity and Fairness for All
According to Cornell University, “Fairness in the workplace refers to an aspect of organizational justice with regards to both process and outcome impartiality.” Now, think about process and outcome partiality. As much as possible, and while responding to customer’s needs and questions, everyone follows the company’s sales process. If we include respect for the individual, this includes continuous rep feedback regarding its design and effectiveness.
Inclusivity also implies partnerships with customers and reps. It provides equal access to status and belonging, and it removes cronyism and the appointments of leaders without a proper examination of their qualifications and competence. In a great and long-lasting culture, each person is disciplined to the same set of rules, and no one receives an unwarranted and unearned advantage. An inclusive and fair work culture will also lead to people, even new salespeople, feeling that they belong. It reinforces that they are valued as a member of their team.
Ethical and Honest Practices
We would think that this value would be believed and followed by all. It seems like common sense. Who wants family members, or those on a sales team, to lie to each other? Is it ok for your sales people to lie to those they serve and sell to? Yet, do you know what is the number one answer I receive to the question, “What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word salesperson?” The sales reps will respond, “Liar or Dishonest.”
Why does the sales profession have such a bad brand? Why do its reps think so little of their role? It’s because of thousands of daily and dishonest interactions with sales reps in their lives. Integrity actually has a broader meaning than honesty. In sales, it means honesty in what we say, but it also means listening to needs, presenting solutions to these, and following up after a sale to make sure those customer needs are met.
In sales leadership, it means fairness, and it means disciplining top reps and lower tier producers to the same set of rules. It means saying what you do and doing what you say. It means customers, reps, and the people back home trust and depend upon you, because you will only present or support what you believe to be the truth.
Remember this … sociopaths, who are clinical or subclinical, are on the increase in our society and businesses. So, trust people, but verify what they say and do. You must make a stand for ethical and honest practices by protecting yourself, your company, and your home from those who scheme ways to take from you and others.
A person can get better. They can improve. The leaders of outstanding sports teams, sales teams, or families believe in the possible transformation of those they lead. They believe in their capacity for new habits leading to successful outcomes. When this value and belief is present at home, we invest in our children. When it is present in business, we invest our money and time in training and coaching.
I have often found that those leaders who see unrealized potential in others also see it in themselves. Because of this, the best in sales leadership put themselves into various transformative, disciplining venues—like exercise routines, spiritual disciplines, better food choices, and sales and leadership training. They listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, and read books to help them change. They are on a journey of self-improvement.
As a matter of fact, the number one word I hear great leaders use is “better.”—getting better, being better through better self-control, better behaviors, and better attitudes. When faced with this type of leadership, people who want to get better find that the mantra, “They have what it takes,” gets reinforced around them. And, while the road to improvement may be jagged for a young son, daughter or a sales rep, strong parents and sales leaders continue to believe for an appropriate amount of time.
Kind and Direct Clarity
Years ago, I developed a process I called “Clear Talk.” It was to be used for constructive feedback between a leader and someone being led. When I taught this to leaders, I told them that, “A Clear Talk session means being kind and direct. Some people are kind and not direct. Others are direct but not kind.”
When having a Clear Talk session:
- Have the courage or respect necessary to communicate openly and honestly.
- Be kind and direct.
- Challenge with facts in all directions.
- State the change you want or the information you need to share.
- Tell the truth as you understand it.
- Tell the effect on the business, you, them or others.
- Maintain an open mind.
- Listen to reactions, feelings and opinions.
- Seek to understand and reach a consensus.
- End by expressing appreciation for them.
Those are the Clear Talk rules, and I have been told by young leaders that it has been one of the most important tools they’ve received from my Coach the Best!™ training. Kind and direct clarity also means being clear about standards and expectations of individuals and the team. This is a form or assertiveness and specificity that leads to the performance and tapestry of behaviors that inspire and lead to great sales cultures.
If you think about these five values and beliefs that drive the sales systems of outstanding sales cultures, you will find them in opposition to the “Toxic Five.” And, if you are the right person, you will make and mold them into your character and the character of the individuals and teams you lead. This will lead to high retention of the right people. This leads to engaged people, satisfied people, amazing sales results and customer loyalty.