Want a Stronger Sales Culture? Tap Into Your Humanity

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Since the global financial crisis, sales leaders have had to cope with new industry challenges and changing customer expectations. How are the best creating competitive advantage?
TTEC Consulting recently conducted a research study of 115 financial services sales leaders from around the world. The research found that 50 percent of respondents said culture was critical for overall team performance and a whopping 96 percent said it was important. But what’s really alarming is that five years after the crisis, less than a third of respondents feel their organizations currently have the right culture. The study also was very self-reflective -- only 54 percent of respondents said their colleagues have the right mix of attributes to be great sales leaders. There is clearly room for improvement when it comes to leading successful sales cultures.
So how can sales leaders in the financial services sector stand out and create high-performing sales cultures? Three key traits emerged from the study: emotional intelligence, relationship-building skills, and building employee trust as a motivator. They illustrate that a personal touch and humanity can go a long way to develop effective leadership.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is all about self-awareness, managing your emotions, and handling relationships with empathy. Before the financial crisis, little EQ was needed for success. Sales culture could be best described as “order taking." The markets were skyrocketing and there was so much business up for grabs. Sales teams didn’t have to understand clients, treat them well, behave with integrity, or be exceptional to smash sales targets. If we think of culture as how employees behave when no-one is looking, then it’s easy to see how non-client-centric cultures develop in large, numbers-focused firms. It’s easier to hide behind the numbers, especially if you are producing significant amounts of revenue.
However, once the crisis hit, the situation dramatically changed. Most sales professionals and leaders behaved like deer in headlights. Successful leaders changed to a client-focused approach based on high emotional intelligence. Those who couldn't adapt are lagging woefully behind.
What’s not surprising is that our research identified that the single most important leadership skill is the ability to build relationships – more than 60 percent of respondents put it in their top five list. What’s worrisome is that this is the same skill that respondents thought was most lacking.
Motivating your team was cited by 23 percent of respondents as the most important driver of a successful sales culture, and 76 percent put the factor in their top five list. And while salary and other financial incentives are important, the survey identified that the biggest motivator is trust in the company and its leadership.
To build this level of trust, we suggest that sales leaders:
  • Dedicate 100 percent of their energy to managing, coaching, and leading their teams to unlock potential and drive performance.
  • Measure and reward performance based on a combination of both hard metrics and values-based behaviors – balance what you achieve with how you achieved it.
  • Change how and whom they recruit. The best sales leaders recruit on a combination of competence, attitude, and values. 

What this all means is that sales leaders will need a skillset refresh to become socially and self-aware trusted advisors that lead by example. The more humanity you bring to your business, the more successful it will be.
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