The Key Ingredients to a Winning Sales Culture

5 min read
May 23, 2024

“The organization doesn’t dictate culture. It’s the people that are in it, the people that are rolling up their sleeves every day, they dictate culture.”

Larry Long, Jr. is a motivational speaker, sales coach, and the Chief *Energy* Officer at LLJR Enterprises. In a recent conversation with him on the RevOps Champions podcast, he told us that top talent alone doesn’t make a high-performing sales team.

Instead, the foundational elements of building an exceptional sales team and culture include:

  • Setting a clear vision and core values
  • Hiring according to the culture you envision
  • Building a tech stack with a strong emphasis on adoption

Of course, all this sounds simple theoretically, but requires work. With Larry’s tactical approach, however, you’ll leave with a set of to-dos to focus on for your business.


Get clarity on what you stand for (then act on it)

The foundation for a strong sales team is a clear vision. Larry advises you to ask yourself: What are your goals? Where are you headed?

Don’t bypass this important step because it will serve as your guide for hiring the right fit people and building the team culture.

Larry notes one common mistake you need to be mindful of at this point: the gap between your actions and the values you say you stand for.

This concern often arises in Larry's coaching sessions with frontline sales reps. For instance, he commonly hears reps complaining that their managers say they care about them, but their actions rarely show they do.

“They’re managing to the number. But it’s an opportunity that’s knocking to really build that relationship, to show our people that we care about them.”

So remember: don’t just map out the core values you stand for — make sure you take steps that reflect those values too.

Focus on culture from the get-go

Hire well

Since culture is a by-product of the people in your organization, hiring the right people matters. Reference your values to define your desired team culture and then hire accordingly. Larry recommends:

“Make sure you’re living in your core values and you’re hiring around those core values because especially in sales, I’ve seen where you have core values of being honest, being customer-centric, which sounds good. It looks pretty on the wall, pretty on the stairs, but the people that you hire, they could give a dang about your clients.”

Align your actions and words

When it comes to building a team culture, companies often forget it takes consistent investment. Because “when you add people to the team, your culture shifts.”

The solution? Go back to your values and make sure you live them — in the ways you work, how the business operates, and the people you hire. And make sure you start off by asking this question and regularly reflect on it as well:

“What are your actions saying in terms of who you’re hiring and how you operate within that?”

Prioritize strong communication

“One of our investors shared that when you hit every 100 people that you add, communication breaks down. From my perspective, when you’re adding to the team, it shifts the dynamic.”

But what does strong communication look like? More listening than talking.

“The key to communication is actually listening. We’ve all been blessed - for the most part - with two ears and one mouth for a reason. My understanding is that we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we’re supposed to just yap away.”

Emphasize relationship building

In the regular day-to-day humdrum at work, building genuine relationships often takes a backseat. But there are two actionable ways you can build strong relationships easily, and they even work for remote teams.

One, help people on your team grow professionally and personally. Larry reminisces that back in the day when he was in sales leadership, his top goal besides hitting numbers was to:

“Help my people learn and grow. If they’re not better as a result of being on my team, shame on me. I haven’t done my job. If they haven’t gotten 1% better over time, 10% better over time, tangibly, both personally and professionally [I haven’t done my job].”

So what can you do today to help individuals on your team become better? Ask them to make a business plan for themselves. Tell them:

“I want you to think through your business plan professionally and personally. What’s your vision? Where are you heading? How are you going to get there? What can I do to serve and support you? I want you to walk me through your business plan and I’m going to make sure that I partner with you.”

And two, make a relationship deposit. Too often we focus on taking instead of giving — withdrawing instead of depositing in relationships.

One way to give back is to complete Larry’s three-minute challenge of serving others.

“It’s something to do every single weekday. I want you to take three minutes and I want you to figure out who can you surprise and delight — someone that you haven’t been in touch with three weeks, three months, [and] three years.”


Build your tech stack with a focus on adoption

A solid tech stack gives you a competitive advantage by improving team productivity and organizational decision-making. As Larry puts it,

“Data is good, but it’s even better to understand the data and then make decisions based off of what the data is telling you.

The only catch? Adding tools to your tech stack left and right rarely drives the results you’re after. A strong emphasis on tech implementation and adoption, however, does.

“It sounds great to have a call recording tool, but if we’re not using it to coach, we’re not using it to have our reps self-analyze, we’re not using it with intentionality, with discipline, with consistency, [the desired outcome] was all a dream.”

To this end, Larry suggests you first focus on getting the right people (we talked about this above), then focus on creating flexible processes before you use software to automate or optimize them.

The key word here is creating “flexible” processes to accommodate growing headcount, changes to your tech stack, and the evolving needs of your employees and customers.

From there, use the cross-functional relationships you’ve built to get buy-in for the right tools.

Ideally, a combination of leaders in sales, marketing, and customer success, along with the CFO, should be involved in the decision-making process.

Denamico’s Co-Founder and CEO, Brendon Dennewill, agrees:

“When we look back 10 years, the technology, the processes, and the data flow were not as cross-functional as it is today.

They were all siloed, but because the technology now runs horizontally through the business...the CFO, the CIO, the CTO, obviously the CRO, the CMO, all have input because it impacts every single team across the entire organization.

And this has been an evolution that we’ve seen over the last five years, where before we were only selling to the CMO or the VP of Sales. Now we’re selling to the entire C-suite.”

Your job in this changing landscape? Show numbers-focused CFOs the soft returns of an investment. This can happen as you build relationships upward and get CFOs involved earlier in the process. 

“It [isn’t] just about the numbers, but also the people, the efficiency. And there are hard costs. And then there are sometimes these things called soft costs that you can’t exactly quantify from user efficiency, and from an employee engagement, employee happiness perspective.”

The best part? This approach “actually makes for a far better solution for everybody because everybody knows what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. And therefore, they can do their part to make it a success[ful implementation],” adds Brendon.


Ready to build a strong sales team?

Remember that it starts with setting clear core values and aligning your actions to them. Make your hiring and operating decisions based on these values.

Once you’ve got the people element right, work on creating flexible processes. Then shift your focus to your data to determine your tech system requirements and finally, nail the adoption piece to make it all run better, faster, and more efficiently.

For more actionable advice from industry-leading experts like Larry, tune into the RevOps Champions podcast.