Remote and hybrid sales teams are here to stay, and leaders who want to build a positive, engaging culture will have to learn some new tricks. Companies with extremely healthy cultures were 1.5x more likely to report average revenue growth of more than 15% for the past three years, according to a survey by Oxford Economics. That’s because happy employees are 56% more productive, 50% less likely to leave their jobs, and take 75% fewer sick days.
For many, the chatter of the sales floor has already faded forever beneath the patter of company Slack channels. Just 9% of white-collar workers said they wanted to return to traditional office life.
Today’s tech-enabled, pandemic-enlightened employees want the flexibility to work from home, at least sometimes — along with more autonomy, collaboration, better tools, and more rewards.
To keep scattered sales teams engaged, leaders will have to build cohesive, engaged, and productive cultures at a time when the usual go-to tactics may not apply. It won’t be easy, but we’re here to help
48% of CFOs say the loss of corporate culture is the top challenge of remote work, more than any other C-Suite respondent pool. There’s a good reason for that: a healthy culture pays dividends.
1.5x companies with extremely healthy cultures were more likely to report average revenue growth of more than 15% for the past three years, according to a survey by Oxford Economics.
2.5x public companies with extremely healthy cultures were more likely to report significant stock price increases over the past year.
Nearly 20 years ago, a new generation of Internet all-stars rejected the corporate ladder and struck out on their own. The first “startups” not only laid the groundwork for today’s economy, they also reshaped the working world. Instead of drab cubicles, we got open workspaces. Instead of three piece suits, we got hoodies and denim.
And instead of the 9 to 5, we got “hustle culture,” a go-hard-or-go-home ethos that glorified overwork. “Grit” and “resilience” became commonplace as company values that emphasized the importance of outlasting your peers.
Meanwhile, “fun” office perks like foosball tables, coffee bars, and catered lunches became commonplace. Furnishings became more stylish and comfy. Designers brought outdoor elements inside—natural light, bamboo accents, and green walls. Together they made for a more inviting workplace; one you didn’t need to leave.
And that was part of the point. The culture shaped the environment, which executives then confused for culture. Hustle-based culture was already dying in 2019 when the pandemic put a stake in its heart. But confusion over what does and doesn’t make a company culture persisted.
“A lot of times organizations do things because everybody else is doing them versus figuring out whether that’s important for their culture,” said Erica O’Malley, a partner and organizational strategy expert for consulting firm Grant Thornton, which authored a study on the ROI of workplace culture.
So how can leaders approach building a strong culture among employees who are here, there, and everywhere? The key is to focus on experiential—not environmental—elements of culture. Sales organizations and their leaders will have to adopt philosophies and practices that not only drive performance and productivity, but make their employees’ work experience fulfilling, inclusive, and rewarding.
Culture is now experiential. Sales organizations and their leaders should craft culture that supports the key dimensions of a healthy workplace.
A culture of individual achievement may power star sellers, but asking reps to collaborate on reaching team goals will motivate middle performers and inspire departments to work together. To do that for scattered teams, you’ll need to put some thought into how—and where—you communicate.
Sales leaders have a vested interest in their reps sticking to processes that build pipeline. But they’ve become accustomed to doing so in a way that works for them. Giving them the freedom to put their own spin on it builds trust, as long as it also delivers results.
In a healthy workplace community, team members are willing to collaborate, share new ideas, and work together toward a shared purpose. Managers will have to work harder to build the esprit de corps that evolves naturally when everyone is on-site.
Onboarding a distributed team is tough. While in-office employees have immediate access, managers can’t be there to answer questions as they arise for remote sellers. Likewise, mentorship between senior sellers and newbies are unlikely to develop spontaneously and will need a gentle push from leadership.
The number one reward for a job well done is money, especially in sales. In fact, 63% of workers who quit their jobs in 2021 said low pay was one driving force, according to Pew Research. But “cha-ching” isn’t enough. 57% of workers said they felt disrespected at work, a hallmark of a toxic culture. For social animals like sellers, leaders must ensure there are social rewards too. And they can’t be limited to in-office workers.
If you’re a sales leader dreaming about an all-hands return to the floor, you might want to hit the snooze button. “Normal” office life looks more and more like a dream.
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