The legacy processes are different. The talent is hired biased towards operations. Some of the sales people are ‘washed up’ old operational managers.  Heck, sometimes there isn’t even a Sales Leader.  Just a couple Sales Managers reporting to the General Manager, Owner or Operational Leader.  Some companies don’t even have Sales Management.  The sales reps report directly to the GM.



How can you tell you sell in an Operational Driven Company?


  • You hear phrases such as “ Sales People are a necessary evil”
  • Any new innovation is exclusively focused on “Product Innovation” or reducing costs
  • Budgets are centered around growing existing accounts and not selling new logos
  • There is no Lead Generation in place (“Sales people get paid to prospect”)
  • Finance sets quotas, compensation and goals
  • Sales Management/Sales Leadership have matrixes reporting structures (the dreaded dotted-line reporting structure)
  • Sales Training is product centric
  • The President/CEO/Owner spends 90% + of his time in operations
  • Sales people have to participate in ‘Operational Reviews”
  • Deal strategy and Sales Strategy is about how to get the most margin out of the deal
  • There is no Executive Sales Leader



Our benchmark shows that over 78% of companies lean towards an Operational Culture.  Why?


BECAUSE Executives find sales a mystery.  They can’t measure it exactly.  They can’t place a ‘six-sigma’ process around sales.  They can’t monitor sales people closely.  They are scared.


This causes organizations to focus on product innovation, cost reduction, operational efficiencies and financial acumen. Not sales culture, sales processes, customer intimacy and rewarding compensation programs.


Look at these analytics:


  • Operational Driven companies average above 41% sales turnover
  • The average cost of turnover (sometimes referred to as the Cost of Mis-Hire) runs over $500,000
  • Fixed to variable compensation averages 78% fixed to 22% variable.  (Best in class sales focused organizations are 42% fixed to 58% variable)
  • Sales Competency models are biased towards Business Acumen, Financial Responsibility, Margin Enhancement and Political Savvy not Talent Management
  • Win rates typically are below 24% because there is no sales process, limited sales skill training and tons of product training
    • And we wonder why sales people product dump on their customers
    • Sales cycles are 42% longer
    • Average Sales Price is 23% lower


“How do I install a sales culture in an Operational Driven Organization?  I can’t change Executive Leadership. “


Many people have asked me”  “Should I just quit and look for a company that is sales driven?”


3 Ways Sales Management can Create a Sales Culture in an Operational Driven Company:


  • Bubble Boy Baby.   Shelter your sales reps against the operational focus. Shelter them from operational focus Initiatives.  Shelter them from the ops guys saying something dumb. “What do you sales people do all day?  Just go sell something so we can salvage it later” is a comment I have heard from an operational leader trying to inspire his sales team.  That’s enough inspiration to go home and update your resume.  Get them in the field, on the phones and in front of customers.  That’s where they want to be anyway.


  • Field Rides:  Get everyone in the field.  Especially the ops leader.   Most of the time the operational leader doesn’t see customers. Or they don’t try to get a new customer.  They must realize it’s not easy obtaining a new customer nor retaining one and growing them.  By appreciating what you do every day; they will understand what it takes to be successful.  Hopefully they will see the rejection a sales person sees every day.   They will realize that positive support goes a lot further than the ‘beat down.


  • Process and measurement:  Non sales people love this stuff.  Why?  Because the rest of the organization has tons of it and they live it every day.  So, Install a sales process, a sales performance metric system and use it daily.  The more the sales organization resembles the operations team, the more accepting the Op Leader will allow you to change the culture.  Provide metric feedback to the Ops leader. Report on the number of field rides, accounts that moved through the pipeline, average sales cycle length, average sales prices and win rates.  They will love it.


Changing the culture of an organization comes from the top.  The CEO, President, GM changes the culture.  But you can affect it.  You can install the sales culture on your team your people are dying for….and reap the rewards.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes persistence and time.  How much time?  Ask Steve McKenzie.  Steve walked into a $350mm operational driven region as the new Regional Sales VP.  He drove a new sales culture in his region. Swapped out former operational driven sales reps who had been ‘parked’ in sales, replaced old general managers who were ‘trained’ to be sales managers and understood what the Regional Operations VP (which all the sales people reported under) needed so he could make his bonus.  Results: Went from the worst revenue generating region of the company to the best.  Time:  18 months. 


Winston Churchill says” Don’t give up, don’t ever, ever, ever give up.”


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