Developing a High-Performance Sales Culture


In the past two years‭, ‬Dallas-based Hardie’s Fresh Foods has transformed its teams into a high-performance sales culture‭. ‬The results of this change have been phenomenal‭, ‬yielding more than 20‭ ‬percent year-over-year growth‭. ‬There have been many changes made that have contributed to this culture shift‭, ‬some of which are outlined below‭.‬

At the beginning of each month‭, ‬we used to have a sales meeting to go over everyone’s sales from the previous month‭. ‬The main question asked was‭, ‬“Did you hit your numbers or not‭?‬”‭ ‬One of the first changes in our thinking was to challenge this process‭. ‬Looking back at last week‭, ‬last month or even last year‭ ‬is using a‭ ‬“lagging indicator”‭ ‬of performance‭, ‬and is akin to driving down the highway while looking in your rearview mirror‭. ‬This process was blown up and replaced with‭ ‬“leading indicators‭.‬”

How do you create leading indicators of future sales performance‭? ‬Selling is a game of numbers‭. ‬For example‭, ‬a sales rep may talk to 20‭ ‬prospective customers to get five follow-up meetings‭. ‬Out of the five follow-up meetings‭, ‬the rep gets one new customer‭.‬‭ ‬We learned future performance is driven by behavior‭. ‬The actions consciously taken every day will lead to the results wanted tomorrow‭.

Hardie’s started by creating a daily/weekly goal sheet for each account manager‭. ‬The goals include how many prospective customers a rep‭ ‬will call each week‭, ‬how many existing customers they will meet with‭, ‬how many customers will they ask for a referral‭, ‬how many‭ ‬they will do new item presentations for‭, ‬etc‭. ‬The simple fact is‭, ‬if you’ve been trained on the product and sales techniques and can build rapport‭, you will be successful in sales if you follow a daily behavior plan‭.‬

In the produce business‭, ‬sales people are easily pulled off-task‭. ‬By having a set of daily and weekly goals‭, ‬they can deal with‭ ‬an issue and then get back on track‭.‬

‬Next‭, ‬our sales managers began weekly coaching sessions with each team member to review the previous week’s goals‭. ‬Did they accomplish the number of visits they committed to‭? ‬If not‭, ‬what will they do in the coming week to ensure they‭ ‬hit goals‭? ‬It is important to note the number of visits‭, ‬presentations‭, ‬etc‭., ‬is different for each sales rep‭. ‬A person who is‭ ‬new and doesn’t have a lot of existing business will have more free time‭, ‬so his/her new customer visits will be higher‭. ‬On the other hand‭, ‬a‭ ‬veteran sales person with a lot of existing business will have fewer prospect customer visits but more business reviews with existing customers‭, ‬more new item presentations and more referrals asked for‭.

During the coaching sessions‭, ‬the sales managers never tell the sales reps how they would have handled a customer meeting‭, ‬but instead ask the reps how they think it could have been handled differently‭. ‬This guides or coaches the person to better performance rather than telling them what to do‭.‬

In the produce business, sales people are easily pulled off-task. By having a set of daily and weekly goals, they can deal with an issue and then get back on track.

Hardie’s Fresh Foods implemented a Customer Relationship Management‭ (‬CRM‭) ‬system‭. ‬Each sales rep’s goals are included in their profile‭. ‬As they visit customers‭, ‬the rep can enter the visit in the system using a mobile app‭. ‬During the coaching sessions‭, ‬the sales manager has the information at his/her fingertips to review the sales representative’s progress‭.

The CRM program also offers additional coaching opportunities for the manager to use‭. ‬If you have two reps making the same number of customer visits and one is getting twice as many follow-up meetings than the other‭, ‬we can try to help the lower performer‭ ‬by finding out where he/she is falling short‭. ‬The CRM program also allows others in the company to have visibility to the company’s customers‭, ‬prospective customers‭, ‬recent visits‭, ‬any issues‭, ‬etc‭. ‬It is not a system for micromanaging a sales representative’s time but rather a repository for documenting customer touches‭.

We also created a sales process for our team to follow‭. ‬Having a sales process is a foreign concept for many companies‭. ‬We have‭ ‬processes for most operational functions‭, ‬so why not for sales‭? ‬The sales process outlines the steps necessary for a sales rep to contact customers‭, ‬qualify them‭, ‬initiate interest in what the company has to offer‭, ‬find out any issues they are having with‭ ‬their current supplier and how to build and keep rapport with them‭. ‬A good process outlines information that sales reps need to‭ ‬get from the prospect at each stage so they can be sure they are moving the prospect toward becoming a customer‭. ‬The ability to‭ ‬see where they are in the sales process allows both the reps and sales managers to know where they stand with a prospective customer‭.‬

Lastly‭, ‬we created a sales compensation plan that rewards reps for bringing in new‭ ‬“profitable”‭ ‬business and maintaining existing business‭. ‬This plan is based on the profitability of the account and encourages the sales team to hunt new business that fits the company’s profitability model‭. ‬The compensation plan‭, ‬along with the weekly goals‭, ‬CRM‭, ‬sales process and coaching sessions give a sales‭ ‬rep the information and encouragement needed to help them achieve not only their company goals‭, ‬but also to grow their income.

Greg Rowe is chief operating officer of Hardie’s Fresh Foods, Dallas. Rowe is also a former member of The United Fresh Produce Association’s wholesaler-distributor board.‬