How to build a culture that attracts top performers with Justin Welsh

Jul 2, 2020
Author: Collin stewart

Culture is a popular term in the business world. In every job description, interview, and corporate plan the concept of building a great culture – one that empowers a team to succeed – is front and center.

But, what makes a great culture? Remote-work opportunities? Beer on tap? Ping pong tables? All of the above?

Not quite. 

Building a great culture is a nuanced thing: it takes more than just amenities and fun and games to work. Culture is actually the behavior your team exudes when going to work every day.

“You can build a great culture with very few amenities. Seems like an easy thing to build, but it isn’t. It’s actually really hard.  And as you grow, it gets more challenging,” says sales consultant Justin Welsh, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

Don’t focus on amenities – that doesn’t attract top players. You want to focus on the core behaviors of the team and the norms they hold themselves to.

The foundation of a great sales culture

So… what is a great culture? And, specifically, what makes a great sales culture?

According to Welsh, the foundation of a great sales culture starts with three key concepts:

1) Hiring correctly

“You only want to bring people that are aligned with your company’s mission, vision, and values,” says Welsh.

“Your sales team has to be bought in. So, make sure you are creating interview questions that reflect those. Ask specifically about how candidates would live your values.”

2) Are your tea members swimming in the right lanes?

“What I have found, in my career, is to understand what lanes candidates are comfortable in. And those lanes are sales cycles and deal sizes. So, when I’m hiring, I want someone that has been in the lanes that reflect our company before,” says Welsh.

“Candidates and new team members should understand your velocity. Say I sell 5,000 deals, and those deals close in 30 days. I want people that understand that coming in.”

3) Hiring hyper curious people

“Successful sales people should be curious, and will naturally figure things out,” says Welsh.

“They should want to read, do their research so they are ready for every potential circumstance on a sales call.”

Of course, depending on the size of your company, these rules can be adjusted according. Smaller companies, for example, can afford to be a little more relaxed when it comes to these suggestions. But, as you grow, Welsh says, be prepared to be more vigilant when it comes to these concepts.

Early on, you can go more ad lib. You can hire someone outside of it these ideas, or someone that doesn’t conform perfectly to them, and still be successful.

But, at scale, it changes. You will want those guard rails.The main point: have good hiring criteria, and revisit that criteria regularly.

Getting comp right

Another critical plank in creating a great sales culture is, not surprisingly, getting compensation right. This sounds like a no-brainer (and, in some ways it is), but many companies struggle with striking the right balance when it comes to comp structure.

What’s the right quota? How much percentage should you pay out? All critical questions.

According to Welsh, there are two factors at play when designing comp: ensuring the team makes a fair wage for their work, while the business thrives at the same time. To him, the ideal comp plan is structured so that the salesperson first pays off their seat (let’s say that is $4,000 per month). 

So, once a salesperson passes that $4,000 monthly recurring threshold per month, they get paid out 25% comp on subsequent deals.

“Once the team pays back their salary and cost back, once they cross that threshold, you can pay them 25% or more. It takes money out of bottom performers, and gives it to top performers,” says Welsh.

Just put all of the percentages in the top threshold. This structure keeps the team hungry. And it doesn’t matter how many sales the team makes after that. They can kill it. Performance based rewards – that is what I believe in.

(Editor’s note: we had James Bawden on the pod a while back to discuss how to build closer relationships with your SDRs. You can read about our chat here, or listen to the whole in-depth interview here)

Recognition outside of the comp plan

Of course, it’s not all about money, right? Part of building a great sales culture is also about rewarding your team outside of the comp plan.

This could take a number of different forms – monthly contests (and the rewarding of the winner), daily goals (dials, for instance), creating daily and monthly leaderboards for various tasks, and quarterly rewards.

“I think this is super critical. Recognition is important – personally, I like to be recognized,” says Welsh.

“It motivates me.”

Recognition doesn’t just stop at monthly or quarterly contests, however. As a sales leader, you should consistently work to surprise and delight your team members. Everyone loves a good surprise, right?

“Don’t let things get boring. Find personal gifts, or do something unique for people,” says Welsh.

“To do so, listen to what your team likes, and what they are interested in outside of work. Invest in your team – it is worth it.”

For more on Welsh’s thoughts on building a great sales culture – including his take on building the right career path, collecting feedback, and learning and development – check out then rest of his interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

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