In the May and June issues, this column addressed key components in developing a top-performing sales organization.

I addressed the importance of the type of mindsets the individuals on the sales team must have in order to succeed, and the type of structure top performers need to operate efficiently and effectively.  The analogy of having the right people in the right seats on the bus, and the bus knowing how and where to go because of structure was used to describe the process. But the most important component in building top-performing sales teams can be found by answering the question, “Why is the bus going somewhere?”

In other words, why do we do what we do? Having a purpose, or more importantly, the correct purpose is what allows great companies to create a culture that separates them from their competitors and gives customers a clear choice of who they want to do business with.

Over the years, I have worked with many companies, including HVAC and plumbing contractors as well as distribution companies serving these trades. These companies have one thing in common. They all believe they have a winning culture. Unfortunately, data and statistics tell another story. High employee turnover rates, business failures, and contractor conversions to other brands and distributorships prove otherwise. It may be true that they all had a company culture, but in most cases it was a “me” culture.

In a recent workshop of HVAC and plumbing territory sales managers I asked the question, “Why do we do what we do?” I was not surprised by the responses because they are quite common among distributor salespeople. From the most common “To make a profit,” to “I want to make more money” or “Keep my job,” all the answers revolved around the company’s directive of making money or the salesperson’s interest in
his/her pocketbook. All the answers scream “It’s about me!”

There is no doubt financial profit is necessary for company sustainability or commissions are a just reward for hard work, but they should not be the driving force behind the company’s purpose. Scott Deming, international speaker and author of “Powered by Purpose,” puts this perspective on making money. “It is a complete misconception that capitalism is a single-minded moneymaking machine. Capitalism is not a machine! It is a directed or purpose-driven system of economic exchange that human beings have created — human beings who have values!”

Relevance, meaning and personal improvement of others are the values of top-performing sales teams that create a winning culture and successful businesses. Top-performing sales teams understand to be relevant in a customer’s business you must serve them in a capacity that improves their business — not yours.

Empathy is the key to unlocking hidden opportunities that can lead to success in your business. Building a culture around empathy and emotionally connecting to customers is more powerful than the products or services you can offer. Just ask Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz, who built a company culture around emotion. According to Shultz, “If people relate to the company they work for, if they form an emotional tie to it and buy into its dreams, they will pour their heart into making it better.” For Starbucks it’s all about the experience they provide their customers, not just the specialty coffees they make huge profits on.

So what is your next move? Stand pat and preserve the status quo or take the next step and develop a top-performing sales team? The ingredients of having the right mindset, structure and purpose are simple, but the work is hard.

Remember, if at first you don’t succeed then don’t go skydiving. Otherwise, find the right people who can help you succeed at building top-performing sales teams.