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About This Episode
It’s not typical to spend the first 3 months in your new role just… listening to people.
But that’s what it takes to build a lasting and strategic sales culture.
Remy was excited to bring his experience to build a sales culture from scratch at an established European company. “I’ve always been attracted to opportunities where there’s a significant amount of change required within the organization — or just pure startup,” he said.
He told me about the cultural pillars that he uses for his sales foundation.
3 Pillars of Sales Culture
1 – Listening
For the first 3 months at Bureau Veritas, Remy listened. “An incredibly important step is not to diagnose or prescribe too early,” he said.
Listening, which has always been a big part of sales, stems from being able to ask good questions. (More on this below.)
2 – Developing the vision
After spending time interviewing across the country to learn about the business, then Remy felt he understood the direction he needed to go.
“I started to develop some ideas about the actual sales strategy, what the go to market approach would look like, what the team would look like in terms of hiring profiles,” Remy said.
Don’t forget, this was after 3 months of research… listening to people, understanding the organization’s culture, investigating the opportunities…
3 – Communicating the vision
This step is ensuring alignment across departments, as well as making sure that people are all pointing in the right direction on strategy.
When hiring, be sure that you don’t just stick people in vacant roles because they’re open.
Too often, Remy has seen sales leaders regret their hires because they were based on the wrong strategy (or no strategy).
Everyone, especially those who hire, need to know what the strategy is and what people will best support that vision.
Listening & asking questions
Given that listening is one of the most important aspects of building a sales culture, I asked Remy to give me tactical advice on how he became a good listener.
He credited Xerox, “the granddaddy of consultative selling,” and Mike, a senior salesperson who mentored him.
Remy admired how Mike could elicit information by asking intelligent, well-positioned questions that were obviously not prepared beforehand but stemmed from the customer’s conversation.
The on-point questions act as the proof of active and deep listening.
Here’s some wisdom that Remy learned from Mike:
“He taught me the difference between an open ended question and a closed ended question, as elementary as that sounds,” Remy said.
Through coaching and roleplay (lots and lots of roleplay), Remy practiced the art of conversation.
“When you have a conversation with someone, a real conversation, you’ve got to actively listen and respond based on what they’re telling you,” he said. “To me, it’s something you’ve got to practice. It’s something you constantly work on.”
A culture of coaching
Since coaching was so beneficial for Remy, he implements it in his sales culture.
One of the worst ways to do feedback is the annual review.
Once per year is not enough.
Honestly, sometimes once per week is not enough.
“Feedback needs to be daily, and in some cases, it can be more often than that,” Remy said. “We owe constructive feedback to our salespeople.”
Frontline managers need to be listening daily, hourly, to their reps and providing constant feedback.
As to what methodology Remy suggests, there is no particular formula that works other than this one:
- Give authentic feedback
- Give feedback often
Lastly, Remy shared hiring tips. Not everyone wants the constant feedback of a coaching culture.
People who excel in smaller, more entrepreneurial companies and startups are those who want to help create an environment and a culture.
“We’ve been successful hiring a more entrepreneurial person, someone who will help fix the airplane while it’s in flight,” Remy said.
This type of person is creative, independent, curious, and willing to learn and grow.
Remy’s advice about hiring circled back to communicating a shared vision. “You need to establish a shared set of values,” he said to anyone who is building a sales culture.
Here’s what a shared set of values that everyone can live by will do for your sales culture:
- It gives you a roadmap
- It’s your rules of engagement
- It defines who can/can’t be on the team
- It sets the tone & environment for the team