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"There is a little difference in the people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative."

These words of wisdom come from the most sought-after businessman and philanthropist of the twentieth century, Mr. William Clement Stone. Ideally enough, his life lessons are still considered a piece of sage advice for business people. And rightfully so, in sales, attitude is crucial when one is dealing with important transactions that have serious consequences.

A positive sales attitude attracts more customers and contributes to forging a relationship with them for the long haul. It has been proven numerous times that a sales team that practices a good sales culture inclusive of positive attitude, professional conduct, and discipline can give tremendous results for the business, and ultimately for all the stakeholders.

A salesperson's primary purpose is to make a sale and generate revenue for the business, thus contributing to achieving its goal. One of the biggest hindrances in doing this is an unfavorable work environment or a toxic work culture.

An organization should never endorse a toxic work culture. It is an immoral practice and has a contrary impact on the overall well-being of the business.  These toxic traits in the sales team culture are often dormant and might not surface much in day-to-day business dealings. Sometimes the problem is noticed only after a devastating sales review.

How to Identify a Toxic Sales Culture?

Prevention is better than cure; the proverb seems to stand true for everything of value. And the first step of prevention is the identification of the problem.

Here are some of the most common signs of a toxic workplace culture that lead to sales team attrition:

1. Higher Employee Turnover

No one ever wants to work at a place that follows a toxic team culture. Sales is already a stressful job, and the responsibility of bringing in revenue is huge. If your human resources are busy hiring new candidates throughout the year, then it could be a sign of toxic work culture. If the company doesn't pay heed to the unfavorable work conditions, employees lose interest in the job and quit.

2. Communication Error 404

Proper communication in any organization is important to establish an agenda. When a person holding the information stops being transparent with others, they create an information gap that causes miscommunication. Although miscommunication can happen between the organization’s hierarchy, peers, and clients, if you are always explaining yourself or facing delays communicating with your team, you should fix that problem soon.

3. The lone wolf

The 80/20 rule is real, that 20% of staff is class A and probably generates more revenue than others. Still, your top salesperson’s great performance shouldn't be an excuse for them not to be team players and act arbitrarily. This discrimination causes dissatisfaction amongst the subordinates and creates a toxic environment. Especially so when you ignore bad habits and immorality to focus on the higher sales figures.

4. Accepting the unacceptable

When organizations ignore toxic behavior and follow a rather casual approach towards it, they facilitate such activities and make a statement that this behavior is acceptable. This could be an absurd comment on someone, a below-average sales performance, or reoccurring irresponsible behavior. Therefore, appropriate action should be taken to stop unacceptable conduct.

5. Setting unattainable goals

High sales goals are motivating and are great for sales team motivation. However, businesses often make the mistake of setting unattainable goals that are impractical and unrealistic. But when the sales team is given an impossible task, their morale takes a hit and leaves them frustrated and unmotivated. This practice is quite common with pharma sales reps.

How to Improve Sales Culture and Fix a Toxic Work Environment?

The first step towards overcoming or improving a sales culture is identifying the problem and its root cause. Yours could be that your team is not communicating with each other or your manager is abusing their authority. Whatever your problem is, you first have to identify it and take some action to create a healthy sales culture for your organization. Here are some of the most effective ways to overcome and improve sales culture:

1. Hire the right fit

A survey conducted by Robert Half International on 1400 executives found that 36% of executives think the main reason for a failed hire was skill mismatch. Hiring the right fit is a brainer, but it differs from hiring a person with the right qualifications. Take measures to find out if an applicant’s expectations and skillsets match with your requirements. For example, if you are looking for a sales rep for selling financial products, scrutinize candidates with extensive knowledge of the field.

2. Allow some room for causal behavior

Like the famous writer Annie Dillard said, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." This quote makes more sense once you realize that an employee spends 1/3rd of their life or as much as 90,000 hours at work. A casual work environment is more productive and creative than the uptight old school workplace that doesn't allow any room for personal engagement.

3. Establish an open chain of communication

Open communication chain allows for seamless communication between the top leaders to the person at the bottom end. Advantages of an open chain of communication include a greater level of trust amongst the team, transparency in day-to-day business and important notifications, immediate resolution of conflict or query, and innovation room.

4. Delegation of authority

When you give someone a task, you share responsibility, and when you do that, you should hold that person accountable for their responsibility. This creates a sense of motivation in the team to finish the task as a sense of responsibility is attached. Additionally, a follow-up meeting to check up on tasks can help in keeping things on track.

5. A regular dose of motivation

You read it right; a regular dose of motivation is important and doesn't always have to be a speech or a seminar. An incentive on timely completion of work, overtime, extra commission, and some one-on-one interaction with the employee can improve their performance by a hundred-fold. Another reason to motivate your team is that a leader who leads by example is more likely to follow others. Active involvement in motivating the team reflects your commitment to the business.

6. Incorporate regular training

Sales is a game of skills, and to get the most out of your sales team, you need them to upgrade their skills. To do that, you can incorporate regular training in sales and related fields for the sales team. Salespeople are the face of the organization; they deal with the clients on the company's behalf. Thus, it is pivotal that they have proper communication skills and administrative and people skills required to win over customers.

7. Allow failure

But isn't sales about always winning a client? The answer to this is ‘no.’ Sales are not always about winning a client. It is about getting customers and solving their problems. So, if a prospective client says a no, don't fixate on that one lost opportunity. Instead, take the learning and move on to the next prospective client who might say yes. Rejections in sales are typical. It is a competitive world, and if you wish to achieve more significant goals for your business and sales team, let little failures be and take the learning.


A positive and nurturing sales environment is necessary for the employees and the business. A toxic sales culture can lead to various issues and deteriorate the health of the business. It is evident now that no one likes to be employed at a place with a poor reputation.

Thus, finding measures to overcome these flaws and improving the work culture becomes essential for businesses. This improves sales team retention, builds a healthy work environment, and most importantly, results in a highly motivated sales team.

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Xoxoday Compass Team