November 3

Sales Management Denial: the Hidden Excuses for Mediocre Sales Cultures


Denial is not a river in Egypt and it doesn’t build great sales teams.

Several years ago, I met with a very nice CEO that proudly shared the history of her company and their  nurturing culture. But the more we talked, the more I realized she didn’t have a nurturing culture, the  company had a caretaking culture. The sales culture was a cross between an adult nursery and a retirement home. Reps were whining about everything (nursery) and many had settled into complacency (retirement home). 

This well-intentioned, nice CEO was in denial. What she labeled as a nurturing culture was instead a sales culture that avoided accountability and difficult conversations.

This denial created stagnant growth and a lot of entitlement. It also created mega opportunities for the competition, which wasn’t in denial, to take away prospects and clients that the CEO’s company was not calling upon or attending to.

I’ve heard different names for nurturing cultures, such as “family culture.” This type of culture indicates high trust, I got your back and belonging. All are very good traits because these attributes do create great places to work -- but only if you include accountability.    

My suggestion is to follow the advice of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. In his famous presentation on culture, he explained that at Netflix, “We are a team, not a family. We’re like a pro sports team, not a kid’s recreational team.” This philosophy makes good business and sales sense for several reasons:

  • It’s hard to fire family. (Anyone have or knows of someone that still has a sibling on the parents’ payroll?)
  • Team means you are working towards a common goal, putting company interests ahead of your individual interest. (The best basketball player in the world can’t bring home an NBA championship.)
  • Team means you earn your spot every year. (We love you and you are great.  However, you earn your spot on the team every year.)      

CEOs and sales managers, take a close look at your sales culture. Get some downtime and apply self-awareness.  Ask yourself where are you might be in denial about your sales team?  Denial is not a river in Egypt and not a way to grow consistent revenues. 

Good Selling!


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