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What Is a Culture of Selling? Understanding the Basics

The best way to create sales and hit your profit goals is to make sales everyone’s job. A culture of selling is one where everyone in the company is actively involved in creating sales and working towards the same goals. While on the surface this idea sounds like retail 101, is it the way your business operates?

Kim Peffley is director of organizational development and consulting at the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA) and has more than 30 years of retail experience, including store management. She helps retailers make organizational changes that lead to stronger teams and business growth. Hardware Retailing spoke with Peffley about the importance of a culture of selling and what you need to know to develop it at your operation. 

Hardware Retailing (HR): What is a culture of selling and how might it be different from what retailers are already doing? 

Kim Peffley (KP): A business with a culture of selling has everyone actively involved in increasing sales and working towards the same goals. It’s really a mindset. Many retailers have a silo approach to sales where there’s one team focused on interacting with customers and creating transactions. In a culture of selling, sales is everyone’s responsibility. It’s also focused on the customer. Instead of just pushing products, the emphasis is on providing solutions and enhancing the customer experience and creating customer loyalty. Another big component is collaboration. Employees aren’t just following top-down directives; instead they’re actively involved in sharing ideas, suggesting best practices and participating in training. This gives them a sense of ownership in their roles and provides accountability, which motivates them to achieve the company’s sales goals. Ultimately, a culture of selling is a unified, customer-centric, collaborative environment.

HR: What are the practical steps a retailer needs to take to foster a culture of selling? 

KP: Creating a culture of selling takes careful planning, communication with your staff and follow through. Once you have it established, it will become a natural part of what you do every day. To start, you need to clearly establish the goals you want to meet. They should be specific metrics, such as net sales, average ticket size, customer count or conversion rate. Make sure you have a way to track them and clearly communicate them to staff. Next, clearly define the role owners, managers and front-line employees will play in cultivating a culture of selling. Company management will need to initiate the creation and support of this culture, so make sure they have the training they need to lead. You’ll then need to make sure you’ve invested in training programs to build employee confidence in selling. Part of your training will be to ensure everyone understands the impact their individual efforts have on overall sales performance. Finally, take it to the salesfloor! Have actionable strategies to increase your average ticket size that everyone can use and understand. 

HR: What are the most important factors involved in driving sales? 

KP: There are four components of a sales culture that are critical if you want to make it work for you. 

Team involvement. Everyone on the team must have buy-in to the process and actively help with sales efforts. If they don’t, there will be holes in your customer experience, meaning customers won’t consistently get the high level of service you’re striving for. 

Defined roles. The sales team includes everyone in the company, so even if someone’s main job is, for example, in the back office, they need to understand how their role impacts the customer experience. Help everyone on the team see the link between what they do and the overall success of sales. 

Ownership. Team members should be able to take charge in helping customers. Empower them to make decisions that improve customer service. Give them a sense of accountability. Show them how they are directly responsible for creating a positive customer experience.  

Monitoring and adjusting. Keep track of your progress towards your goal. Measure progress often so that if you get off track, you can course correct quickly. Learn from your mistakes, take into account employee feedback and adapt your plan as necessary. 

HR: What are some challenges retailers might face when trying to create a culture of selling? 

KP: Creating a culture of selling is a process, it’s not something that will happen overnight. If you shortcut that process or get impatient, it leads to some pitfalls that will hinder your progress. Here are some common challenges.

The management team is trying to do it all themselves. If you set up your sales goals and then don’t involve the whole team, you risk limiting the unique perspectives others could bring to the table. There won’t be as much buy in from the staff or collaboration, which limits the sense of ownership. People won’t be as effective in their selling if they see it as a management project and not their own. 

There are unclear expectations. If you’re not clear or incomplete in your expectations for your team, they will be confused and misunderstand their responsibilities. They’re not going to perform as well and you may fall short of your goal.

There is no way to measure growth. If you set a goal but don’t measure progress, how will you know when you’ve arrived? Not measuring growth along the way means you can’t identify areas for improvement, which may be necessary for your ultimate success.

Team members succumb to frustration or feel overwhelmed when goals aren’t met. Be prepared for challenges along the way and for frustrating moments. If you let feelings of failure overtake you, it will negatively impact morale, rupture team dynamics and hinder the ability to address challenges effectively. 

Management fails to allow sufficient time for change to take effect. Being impatient with change can cripple your efforts to foster a culture of sales. New habits take time to take hold. Not all employees are going to ‘get it’ right away. Rushing the process could impede the adoption of new practices and hinder long-term success.

To learn more about how to establish a culture of selling at your operation, contact Kim at kpeffley@yournhpa.org or 219-776-0094.

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NHPA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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