Tag: Sales Culture

Company Culture

Toxic Sales Culture Practices That Need to Change

Scott Leese

Boiler rooms suck. Wall Street sucks. Chest pounding macho sales floors suck. It didn’t used to be perceived that way though. 

As we come around to a better understanding of creating inclusive sales floors and removing barriers to entry to allow for more diversity in the profession, we have to recognize a few relics of the past that need to change.

Obvious Toxic Sales Practices

Let’s start with practices that most folks in sales and leadership agree need to go right now. The hope here is that naming some of the most obvious and toxic sales practices still too common in the workforce will further expedite their extinction.

  1. Favoritism – We all know the one sales manager who always eats lunch with the same reps on their team every day. You know…the ones who seemingly get all the hottest leads. Even if you are not doing it on purpose or bending any rules, you still need to stop this practice. Pygmalion Effect any one?
  2. Unreasonable daily metrics – why are we forcing reps to make 100+ dials a day if the sale itself doesn’t call for that volume? Spray and pray is gone and we have to prospect with more strategy and personalization.
  3. Promoting top performing AEs into Sales Managers – not only that, but doing so without providing them specific and intensive training to help prepare them for the new role.
  4. Discounts as urgency – we must stop this. It hammers our credibility [and our paychecks].
  5. Silly and goofy emails to gimmick people back into the funnel – I’m not being chased by a rhino and I don’t care if this is your last attempt. Go ahead and break up with me. I’m too busy to deal with this right now.

Well tell me something I don’t already know. Can we push the envelope here and dig a bit deeper? What about some practices that we know exist – just “not at our org.” 

“Not at Our Org” Toxic Practices

Here are some “elephant in the room” sales practices. These are things that are commonplace wherever you go, but nobody is either willing to admit or accept that they too are part of the problem. These are the things “secretly” killing your sales org because leadership is the only area of the business NOT talking about them.

  1. Lack of Diversity in Leadership
    1. Loss of varying perspectives
    2. Culture of followers
    3. Limited upward mobility / glass ceiling damages moral and recruiting/retention
  2. Churn and Burn
    1. Blow through boatload of hiring, training, firing
    2. Morale killer / Culture killer
  3. Lack of Transparency around Equity
    1. Distrust breeds contempt
    2. Decreased buy-in to overall mission
    3. Enthusiasm for sale dissipates
  4. Messing with Salespeoples’ Money
    1. Rep churn
    2. Glassdoor will get ugly
  5. Mental Health Stigmas
    1. Distrust of HR and leadership
    2. Feeling no support, staff will struggle and performance can dwindle. 

Let’s dive deeper into each one of these.

Lack of Diversity in Leadership 

My good friend and sales leader Kevin Dorsey talks about what it’s like “being the only.” There are far too few POC in Sales leadership roles, as well as too few women in these roles. We find convenient excuses like “I can’t seem to find anybody” or “They need just a bit more experience first.” Cut the crap and give people a chance, and make decisions to have diversity and go make it happen.

Churn and Burn 

While dying off, these sales floors are not yet extinct. You must live with your company’s Glassdoor page and local reputation very publicly these days. Protect your reputation. People need the training, tools and time required to be successful in their roles. I can assure you, this is longer than two weeks. So invest in your team and set them up for success.

Lack of Transparency Around Equity 

The lack of transparency that is often involved in these negotiations or pitches to recruit folks is rubbish. You have a responsibility as a leader to make sure your employees are educated. Do not assume anything is common sense or that they will research it on their own. There are many layers to this toxic onion. But the fact that most employees don’t realize they have 90 days to exercise if they leave before an exit [and most cannot afford to do so] is outrageous.

Messing with Salespeoples’ Money

 Do we need to change the comp plan 3-4x in year one? What about changing it 1x per year – is that really necessary? Stop squeezing every nickel you can find out of the paychecks of the folks putting dimes into your coffers. Clawbacks when it wasn’t a sales issue. Delayed commission checks due to payroll errors. Inaccurate commission checks that require reps to double check payroll’s work. You will lose a salesperson with Usain Bolt-like speed if you mess with their money.

Mental Health Stigmas 

These have to go. High stress jobs create highly stressed employees. Why not just allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open up and talk about this stuff.  Instead lets find new and creative ways to support conversations and employees. 

Failure to solve and actively address some of the antiquated sales practices is a surefire road to creating a sales culture nobody wants to work in. You will struggle with recruiting as word gets around town about what it’s like to work there. Morale will drop lower and lower as the team tunes out and loses motivation. You will have unhappy and unhealthy employees, pissed off at both the comp and the culture you have created. What comes next? You will have costly rep churn and performance will drop off a cliff. 

You don’t want that.

These old practices may have had their time and place, but sales has changed.  Not only do these antiquated practices not fit into the modern workplace, they have been replaced with techniques that deliver happier employees, and better results.  The modern worker is no longer willing to tolerate employers who treat staff this way, because time and again it is proven that engaging and treating employees with respect makes a company more successful.

What you do want is a sales environment that is:

  • Inclusive to everyone
  • Diverse in its makeup
  • Fair and transparent 
  • Training and development focused
  • Rewarding and motivating
  • Free of stigma from real life challenges everyone is dealing with

If you build that, not only will they come, but they will stay for a long time.

Scott Leese
Company Culture

5 Signs Your Sales Culture Might Be Toxic

Josh Benedetto

You’d be hard pressed to find a business where the founder intended to have a toxic culture. 

Nobody wants their culture to be toxic. Sometimes it just happens because we aren’t paying attention to the signs. 

It’s kind of like a bunch of bananas. You can bring them in green, or perfectly ripe, but if you leave them unattended for too long, they can quickly go bad. And before you know it, you’ve got a bad bunch on your hands. 

So with that in mind, we want to share with you some of the most common signs that you’re developing a toxic sales culture within your organization.  Because your employees aren’t bananas—and neither are you! You can keep them around for a long time without ever worrying about them spoiling. 

And the good news is, it’s never too late.  You can take those overripe bananas and make banana bread! It starts when you take a hard look in the mirror, see where your problems persist, and then spend some time picking at the rot. Your employees, and your future self, will be so grateful you did. 

Transparency Has Left The Building

Writing for Forbes, Liz Ryan tells us, “You know your culture is broken when you walk into a room where people are talking and suddenly they go silent. You know your culture is broken when your boss’s door is always closed.”

Don’t allow yourself to become a manager who’s afraid to face their employees. Instead, create rhythms where you’re regularly checking in with your team, understanding their goals, and helping them to catch your vision for success. The more transparent you can be about both your goals and your expectations, the more likely everyone is to succeed. 

Employees Are Playing By Their Own Rules

Over on the Close blog, Steli Efti puts it well that when you start to have lone-wolf employees who play by their own rules, things can get dicey—especially when those lone wolves are also your top performers. 

What ends up happening, Efti shows us, is that those top performers inadvertently teach everyone else that that bad behavior gets rewarded, and it will only encourage others to follow suit. 

“Instead of helping everyone succeed and setting a good example, top performers will look down on the rest. … The message you’re sending is that this behavior is okay and it’s the type of behavior that gets rewarded. What ultimately happens is that you’ll get a lot more of that behavior.” 

Managers Are Abusing Their Power

As our friends over at The Sales Coaching Institute remind us, it’s easy for power to go to any of our heads. But when one of your managers gets drunk on their power, it has devastating effects on your culture—and in turn, the organization as a whole. 

Instead, they go on to say, we need to make sure that our managers are gaining their employees’ trust, rather than walking around like supreme rulers. 

“Leading by example is a more effective way to gain the trust of your sales professionals instead of relying on fear to motivate them.”

High Turnover Becomes Common

People who like their jobs, their employers, and their coworkers don’t leave their jobs as often as people who dislike those things. That’s just simple logic. 

But have you considered the cost of high turnover? According to SHRM, high turnover from toxic workplaces cost the business world a quarter of a trillion dollars in the last five years alone. 

Here’s the bottom line: according to one Harvard study, the cost of even one toxic employee—who can cause severe rates of demotivation, decreased productivity, and a turnover rate of 12%(!)—can be massive. “ Avoiding a toxic hire,” they say “or letting one go quickly, delivers $12,500 in cost savings.”

If you’re having trouble holding on to employees, you may not simply have a hiring problem, it may be much deeper. 

Pressure Begins To Exceeds Motivation

We’ve talked about extrinsic and intrinsic motivators here on the blog before. In short, it’s important to have outside motivators, and also an internal sense of simply wanting to do our jobs—for personal goals, or simply for the fact that we enjoy doing it. 

But when those motivators turn into fear-based pressure and a kill-or-be-killed type culture, you know you’ve got a problem. 

One employee of Wells Fargo described a similar toxic sales culture to NPR: “It was multiple occasions where I saw my co-workers were cracking under the pressure,” Erik says. ‘Tears, crying, constantly getting pulled into the back room having one-on-ones for coaching sessions.’ … He says this wasn’t really ‘coaching.’ Managers called it that, but it was just leaning on employees to sell more solutions.”

Rather than scaring your employees into their best performance, try to motivate them in positive, growth-based ways. 

Creating Consistency at All Times

At the end of the day, it’s up to you as the head of your team or organization to root out the rot of toxicity in a bad sales culture. Hire the right people, create a system that works for everyone, and then reward those who succeed within it—and keep coaching the ones who struggle to do so. 

In our current environment, of remote work, high stress and lots of distractions,  we continue to see employees looking to their employers as their support system. And that makes it all the more important that you ensure your organization is one that promotes consistency and a culture that puts its employees wellbeing first. And the sooner that you do that hard work of cleaning up the “toxic spills,” the more quickly you’ll find a group of people who are truly equipped to thrive.

Josh Benedetto