Assessing Cultural Fit


assessing_cultural_fitIt’s that time of year – another calendar year-end when professionals step back to reflect on their own Year-in-the-Life performance. Some professionals will inevitably decide that it’s time to look for new opportunities, and identifying the right climate and environment for future success is critical.

Effective research, discovery and questioning all drive this process. For those of us in the selling field, I’ve created a list of areas to consider when identifying whether the Culture will be one in which you’ll thrive or encourage you to keep looking. Here are my top 3:

  1. Assess growth potential. This isn’t necessarily about the sellers taking on managerial roles or building teams. Instead, it’s more likely about understanding the organization’s commitment to having competitive offerings and supporting its sellers with portfolios of goods and services that they can sell effectively. Plus, healthy (and profitable) business growth means continued opportunity and potentially higher commission potential. Also, test for what happens to non-performers and what that process looks like. Does that approach (and the level of churn) sound right or scare you off? A few questions to pose on growth:
  • What percentage of sales comes from core business?
  • Where do you expect your growth to come from in future years?
  • How do you align sales territories and how often are they adjusted?
  • Tell me about your existing sales team. Why are there vacancies?
  • What makes your top sellers successful?
  • How quickly does it take most sellers to get up-to-speed?
  • What percentage of your new sellers is successful?
  1. Test how deals get done. Whatever answer you get, this question will give you tremendous insight into what and who drives decisions and the formal/informal nature of the business. Sellers want to be able to sell with few distractions but with the appropriate level of support from others to “get deals done.” So, use this focus of inquiry as a way to help assess how sales happen and what your internal level of effort will be in pushing through deals. Even those who work in consultative sales will want to minimize how many people need to approve their deals. A few questions to pose:
  • Describe a “typical” deal. What does that sales process look like?
  • What are the biggest points for negotiation?
  • How does decision making at the company happen?
  • At what levels do others need to get involved to approve exceptions?
  • Who needs to be involved in approvals?
  • What resources will be provided to support me?
  1. Understand compensation. Ironically, this isn’t really just about the actual dollars. Instead, it’s about the composition of compensation, which will help you understand whether the business is truly transactional (with monthly payouts or weekly spiffs) or consultative (with quarterly or annual targets). Remember, sellers need instant gratification, and leading practice suggests that you want to time incentive compensation payouts very closely to the selling activities. Even those of us who work with longer sales cycles need to decide “is this an environment that will set me up for success?” And compensation is one of the clearest indicators of that. A few questions to consider in evaluating the comp pieces:
  • What is the cyclicality of the business?
  • What percent of sellers hit their targets last year? How many sellers maxed out their plans?
  • How much upside is there?
  • What metrics do you use regularly to track the pipeline? Individual performance?

Again, there are a lot of great resources on identifying and testing for corporate culture. Why? Because it matters. A lot. Great people can make any situation work in the short term. But, great people will stay and contribute to an organization over the long run if they are successful, feel supported and are interested in what they do. Fundamentally, this means that the corporate culture must work for them.

A few other quick reads and resources to consider:

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