TODD Cohen believes the word culture is misunderstood in the business climate.

“People hear it,” he said, “and they think, ‘Oooh, it's something for the HR department to deal with. Our culture? Our culture is fine. Our results aren't there but our culture is fine.’”

Todd Cohen As the principal of SalesLeader LLC, Cohen advises and builds high-performance sales teams, serving clients ranging from small, rapidly growing start-ups to well-established, large corporations.

He believes everyone is in sales, not just the sales team.

“Culture is a shared set of beliefs. At the end of the day, it means everyone is in sales, and the sales culture is determined by you looking inside your organization and answering one question: Is everyone growing or driving in the same direction, whatever that direction is? Or is your organization siloed and in a vacuum?”

He said there are two kinds of companies:

  • Consistently mediocre

    “Every year, they say, ‘We almost made it,’ or ‘We just made it. We are 100.7% of our sales plan.’ Wow, that .7 must make you feel great. They go, ‘It's just not right, but we're going to keep doing the same thing.’”

  • High-producing

    “Not just making the plan, but exceeding it. They have a sales culture and have figured out that everything everybody does in an organization counts. Everything matters.”

And he loves Robert Louis Stevenson's 1873 saying: Everyone lives by selling something.

“Sales is not someone else's problem,” he said. “Everybody in your organization matters. What they do has a systemic and profound effect on the bottom line.

“The question is, who in your organization brings value to your customers? It's beyond the sales team, whoever it might be. Have you told them they bring value to customers and shown them how? There is nothing better than an employee who is shown in 30 seconds that what they did last week, last month, last year, had an effect on what the customer did.

“A few years ago, the Harvard Business Review published a study of 873 business leaders. What was their #1 concern?”

“The #1 concern is not enough sales. How do we get more? You can't continue to beat up on your sales organization. The trick is not to raise the goal of the sales organization. Sales professionals … all they think they do all day is react, react, react. We're busy reacting. We're not busy selling. And we're not busy getting people to sell for us.”

He believes that every connection, every conversation, every interaction is a “sales opportunity.”

“Multiply that times the number of people you have in your organization,” he said. “Multiply that by the number of people they talk to day in and day out of your organization. When you think about the exponential value of this state, you now have a potential sales culture, a sales organization that nobody can touch. The consistently mediocre don't get this. They think, ‘Let's get more from the sales team. Let's lower the percentages, raise the goal and expect more.’ Not going to happen.”

“Sales campaigns are not simple — there are a lot of moving parts,” he said. “What's fascinating is that from the day we identify the first client, the number of people touching that sales campaign is infinite. So you're constantly going like this” — he shuffles his hands — “like we used to do with the Rubik's Cube. And people are constantly coming in and out of the sales campaign to ultimately get that client to say yes. Sales is no longer a linear experience. It requires the input constantly of everybody in your organization — and dare is say, people outside the organization.”

He posed three questions:

  • Does your organization speak a common “sales” language? “Fact #1: Every member of your organization has a ‘line of sight to revenue.’ Does everybody understand how what they do counts? Fact #2: Don't do anything different; think differently about what you do.”

  • Are you relevant? “Sales cultures understand how to achieve relevancy to their customer base. But as importantly, sales cultures ‘get’ how everybody is relevant to the customer and each other.”

  • Are you present? “I don't mean physically present. As I walked through the booths here yesterday, I was paying very close attention to how people were managing their booths. There were two categories. There were those standing there. I don't want to talk to anybody. I was told to be here. And then there were those who were engaging customers. Eye contact was dead on. They were listening and achieving relevancy. Being present makes sales. If you're not present, stay home. Come back tomorrow.”

He said companies must build a virtual team. Why? Because sales happen because people are selling for you.

“I put people to work for me who understand my value proposition,” Cohen said. “They think of me because of the work of my virtual team. I spend time every week connecting with people to make sure they remember my value proposition. Then I ask them, ‘What can I do for you?’ It's a little uncomfortable because we are required to reconnect with people.”