Debunk Your Bias: Sales Culture
This is part two in a series to explore opportunities in Sales and provide insight from experienced sales professionals on different ways to turn sales into a career.
In the last Debunk Your Bias blog, we focused on why veteran and military spouse job seekers may underestimate the potential of sales as a great career opportunity. This time, we’ll focus on company culture, so that you can see how you may fit into this type of environment.
I think some of the fear of a competitive sales environment stems from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. Dan Riley, Retired/Custom Design Project Manager at Achieve Global and Volunteer at Hire Heroes USA, shared this movie with me when I asked about sales environments and prospecting. It’s all about the sales culture. There are a couple of noteworthy quotes from the movie:
“ABC. A, always. B, be. C, closing. ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Always be closing.”
“A-I-D-A. Attention, Interest, Decision, Action. Attention – Do I have your attention? Interest – Are you interested? I know you are, because it’s [bleep] or walk. You close or you hit the bricks. Decision – Have you made your decision? And Action.”
Sounds intense, right? As Dan mentioned in his interview, a company’s environment really depends on the organization. Movies sensationalize real-life stories; Glengarry Glen Ross dramatized the sales culture of a real estate office with agents played by big named actors. These big personalities made for exciting drama but that does not speak to all companies’ sales culture. Every organization, with its different products and services, has its own process of success.
A successful sales environment is one that encourages a positive atmosphere while promoting healthy competition. Do some research and look for indicators that will give you insight into a top-notch sales culture. Salesforce has a blog called “7 Traits of a High Performance Sales Culture,” and it can help you research companies. Here are the seven traits:
- 1. A data-driven mindset – The best companies are analyzing growth by collecting hard data. They analyze trends and develop strategies to improve performance.
- 2. Transparency across all levels – You are not only selling a product or service, but also the company brand. Authenticity and integrity are important to any sales professional, so it’s important to know the goals and the objectives of leadership.
- 3. Constant improvement through sales coaching – Like process improvement in the military culture, high performers want to continue growing and improving their skills.
- 4. Low rep turnover – At any company, high employee turnover is a bad sign. It’s always best to identify and conduct an informational interview with a senior sales professional at the company.
- 5. Agility and flexibility – Innovation is key to growth. Doing the same thing all the time means you’ll get the same results. It’s important to keep evolving and bringing in fresh ideas.
- 6. Healthy competition – The drive to succeed comes with rewards and an environment of successful professionals can motivate you to do your best. You can learn and grow with a team that inspires you.
- 7. A common vision – This is a team effort. As an individual, you want to be successful, but the biggest successes are wins for the whole organization. From the sales team to the executive leaders, everyone should believe in a common goal and work toward it.
Military organizations are different from private companies, but you can see the obvious similarities in these traits. It is important that everyone believes in a mission, works together beyond self-interest, focuses on a greater goal, and adapts to the economy by innovation and process improvement. Doesn’t this sound like the military?
In mid-July, I had the opportunity to interview Amanda J. Armstrong who is a Senior Manager of Sales Effectiveness at Grainger. Amanda joined Grainger in March 2016 after serving more than two decades in the United States Air Force, retiring as a Senior Master Sergeant. Amanda has worked in sales leadership as a Manager of Inside Sales, Senior Manager, and in Sales Leader Development. Amanda’s husband is active duty Air Force and stationed in San Antonio, Texas, and they have two teenage children. She is not only a veteran but also a military spouse!
(Beginning of Interview)
(Jamie) What is it like to work at your company?
(Amanda) Grainger’s culture is the leading factor of why I enjoy coming to work every day. I enjoy the team/family environment, respect for one another, and the sharing of best practices. It’s nice to come into the office and see people happy to be here!
(Jamie) What does a typical day or “battle rhythm” look like?
(Amanda) Every successful day begins with planning! Our sellers plan who they are going to call and what they will talk about while on the phone. After our team members have planning time, they will jump right into their day by calling their customers, discovering needs by asking thought, provoking questions attempting to gain an opportunity for that customer to expand their business with Grainger. Throughout the day our team members will collaborate with each other, have a 1:1 strategy or mentor meeting with their leader or listen to pre-recorded calls to enhance their sales ability. Even though the day can be fast-paced, the environment always calls for tons of collaboration, sprinkled with fun contests, and A LOT of LAUGHS!
(Jamie) There’s a fear that sales comes with heavy prospecting that veterans/military spouses may not have the network or know-how. How are customers or clients attracted to the company’s services or products?
(Amanda) It helps that Grainger is what I call a “superpower” in the Industrial Supply space, so fortunately for us, our 90+ year brand goes a long way. If you are hard-working, agile, coachable, dependable, you love a challenge and have a natural ability to build relationships with people, then this is the career for you! Last time I checked, veterans and military spouses have ALL of those attributes. Our customers know the Grainger brand of reliability, honesty, and customer focus pretty well but if they don’t, you will love working here so much, it will be easy for you to share your passion for Grainger’s values and integrity we bring to our customers every day.
(Jamie) What is rewarding about being in sales?
(Amanda) Helping our customers! Getting in front of them to make sure we help keep their businesses running while keeping their people safe. We take great pride by being the #1 Safety Supplier in North America and there is no other satisfaction than keeping people safe. I also like hitting my sales number. I would be lying if I didn’t mention the thrill of my hard work to close that sale.
(Jamie) How does the compensation structure look like? Is it just a base pay plus commission or commission only?
(Amanda) For the Inside Sales Associate position in San Antonio, there is a base pay component as well as commission pay for hitting revenue targets.
(Jamie) What are the average and potential income?
(Amanda) A seller who is consistently at 100% to plan will earn close to $46,000 annually, and that includes base pay plus commission. The commission is uncapped, and a seller who is above their sales plan has the potential to earn more.
(Jamie) What are some misunderstandings about sales?
- – Sales is cutthroat and there is no collaboration amongst team members
- – You must follow sales scripts with no deviation or flexibility when speaking to customers
- – You must pitch ALL DAY LONG
- – It’s unstable and can’t make a reliable income
- – You can’t build relationships with customers since you’re too busy selling products
Luckily for us, these misunderstandings are not indicative of our culture and what we represent. Here is my take on it:
At Grainger, we promote a team environment and love to cross-pollinate between teams. We find it helps us develop and grow faster. It’s One Team, One Fight for us!
We also believe in communicating with our customers to build relationships. We want our sellers to use their natural ability to conversate and to learn their customers’ business. One of Grainger’s strongest attributes is our ability to build relationships and turn customers into our extended family.
Lastly, our team members work very hard to make a living for their families and we are razor-focused on providing them all the tools necessary to allow them to do that. We have quite a few team members who have been with our Inside Sales group for years and they have built a very comfortable lifestyle for themselves and their families. Not to mention, we also offer a world-class work-life balance for our teams. Monday – Friday, 7:30 – 4:30, weekends and holidays off. Very different from military life!!
(Jamie) What is the most important quality that someone should possess to be successful?
(Amanda) I can think of plenty of adjectives to describe my most successful sellers however, tenacity is what comes to mind first.
(Jamie) Veterans and military spouses may not realize they have the qualities to do a sales profession, why do you think they are ideal candidates?
(Amanda) We have seen great success with our vets and military spouses already. Sales requires mental fortitude to get the job done and let’s face it, military families feel that daily and for years. Whether you have donned the uniform or been the backbone to their family supporting the home front, there is a great deal of resilience and tenacity required of you. GRAINGER WANTS THAT!
(Jamie) Are there any last words you would like to share for our veterans and military spouses?
(Amanda) When I retired, I was scared, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted my career to be. I also wasn’t sure if my skills were going to translate or I was going to get used to not being around my military comrades. What I discovered was I have new comrades and they are very much like my military family. They believe in terms like integrity, ethical behavior and being selfless; Comrades who welcome diversity and promote inclusivity. These concepts are what I have lived my whole adult life by, and I find great comfort knowing I can continue with a company like Grainger.
I have found my new home and I am hoping you will find yours too. Whether you have answered your nation’s call and transitioning to civilian life or you are looking to find a place you can grow a career as you support your service member, Grainger is a place your service is needed and we are looking for more comrades like you.
Join me and adopt a new slogan. “For the Ones Who Get It Done.” Suits you…doesn’t it?
(End of Interview)
It was a pleasure to hear Amanda’s insight, as a veteran and a military spouse. She shared such great information on showing similarities of both cultures and how Grainger could be a great career opportunity for veteran and military spouse job seekers.
Stay tuned for the next Debunk Your Bias on Sales! For more recommended articles to understand sales cultures, I recommend checking out these articles:
- – Salesforce: 7 Traits of a Higher Performance Sales Culture by Zorian Rotenberg
- – American Express: 10 Steps to Creating a Top-Selling Sales Culture by Rory Vaden
- – American Management Association: 4 Tips for Developing a Corporate Culture That Attracts a Great Sales Team by Eliot Burdett
- – Harvard Business Review: 4 Ways to Build a Productive Sales Culture
- – Forbes: You have A World Class Sales Culture? By Scott Edinger
- – Military.com: 5 Reasons to Recruit Veterans for Sales Jobs