I am concerned about the sales culture in Australian organisations today.

In my discussions with senior executives of small to large sized firms, it’s clear that sales and customer service skills are not the focus they should be in some organisations.

The prosperous times that Australia enjoyed during the height of the mining boom, when the economy was vibrant and when sales were relatively easy to generate saw too many companies lose focus on how best to generate sales.

I think these firms lost their sales ‘mojo’ and now in these more challenging economic times they are wondering ‘where did we go wrong and how can we get the cash registers ringing again?’

Such was my concern about sales culture that I asked our team here at the Australian Institute of Management Victoria and Tasmania to conduct a major research survey on the subject.

We surveyed just under 1000 managers and leaders of Australian organisations to determine the extent of the sales culture crisis in this country. Almost half of those surveyed said the sales culture in their organisations was ‘poor to moderate’.

Given that finding, it wasn’t surprising that when we asked the broad range of business professionals in the survey to nominate what skills are important for their career advancement, ‘Sales and customer service’ was ranked second last ahead of bottom placed ‘Business etiquette’.

So, if managers and leaders don’t rate ‘sales and customer service’ skills and capabilities as useful to help them climb the corporate ladder, little wonder then that sales culture standards are so worryingly low.

Many members of the nation’s sales force are not getting sufficient support from the general management of their organisations to help drive business development on the front line.

Even though ensuring its sales force is adequately trained is of fundamental importance to improving a company’s sales culture, our survey found that a significant number of sales staff ‘don’t receive formal training’. For those who do receive training, only half ‘get training specifically geared to their needs’.

The development of an active sales culture starts with the company’s leadership. It’s up to the CEO to outline the performance expectations, provide the necessary resources and then hold people to account. Consistent actions and behaviours are also vital. I know it’s an old cliché, but it’s so true – you must ‘walk the talk’.

In well run organisations, there’s an ongoing, company-wide focus on sales. There’s an expectation – if not an obligation – that non-sales executives will be doing what’s required to work co-operatively with and support the efforts of  sales people. Everyone in the organisation ‘sells’ – whether they know it or not!

As Australia seeks to rebound from the economic downturn, companies will need to change their way of thinking and break bad habits. In that regard, please ensure your organisation’s ‘To do’ list includes checking the state of its sales culture!

Tony Gleeson, FAIM