This article was originally published in Forbes.
It has always been essential for businesses to maintain a solid reputation. However, this has taken on another level of importance in the modern context. Social media, 24-hour news cycles and the ubiquity of information have put reputational issues at the forefront of any organisation’s strategy.
Efforts must be made in terms of public relations, brand management and leadership reputation, but it cannot stop there. To build a truly robust reputation, those who represent your company in day-to-day interactions should fully understand the values you wish to project.
Those who are responsible for sales, by definition, have a huge impact on any business's success. However, this goes beyond revenue generation. They are also a significant driver of your wider reputational efforts due to their countless interactions with the outside world, including current or prospective customers, partners, sponsors and beyond.
If your firm has a poor sales reputation, this will impact the overall image you portray and may even go against other efforts by your leaders or marketing. As a result, it is critical that your sales teams are kept updated on reputational matters—and are well-versed in your firm’s values and are able to communicate them effectively.
Building A Strong Sales Reputation
A lingering and often unfair perception of sales teams is that their approach can be too "pushy" and not focused on building trust or those long-term relationships that are so important to creating sustainable success. Highlighting the importance of honesty and transparency in negotiations is something that the majority of businesses will already be doing, so what other efforts can be made?
Fundamentally, all your employees must buy into your company’s ethos and what it is trying to achieve. We have all been in an organisation or dealt with a representative of a company who couldn’t care less about how they or the company are perceived. As much as we may try not to let them, these sorts of interactions can have a strong influence on our opinion of the company, and if many others have the same experience, this can cause significant reputational damage.
Therefore, it is important for your company's leadership to maintain a two-way dialogue with its people. To a large extent, reputation will be top-down—the heritage, culture and personalities of those who founded or run the company will have a significant impact on how it approaches sales and the reputation it wants to build. However, it is important to not be out of touch and to make sure to listen to the wishes and outlook of the people you have throughout your organisation.
There is a wide societal focus on authenticity, and we have seen many examples of companies being called out, even canceled, for not living up to the high moral standards that consumers and workers have these days. For example, many companies have been accused of greenwashing, being misleading in their advertising or having sales practices deemed out of sync with their values. Clearly, this will have a big impact on the reputation of the firm more broadly, but also on sales teams. A team should be comfortable promoting a product or service, not worried about having to make any moral compromises. This can make them more effective in driving revenue and helping build a more positive reputation.
Measuring A Strong Sales Reputation
Revenue is a good measurement of many business outcomes, and reputation is no exception. If your revenue figures are strong, it is likely that a strong reputation has helped make that happen. However, it is a mistake to not look beyond revenue and seek different indications as to how your reputation is doing. The use of customer success teams can be a great way to keep in touch with customers throughout the lifecycle, getting constant and useful feedback to measure how your company is doing and the way it is perceived by your customers. Similarly, engagement programmes between stakeholders and your senior team can also fulfill a critical role and ensure that strong bonds are created and trust is shared.
Other established ways of measuring satisfaction beyond simply revenue include the Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a score that organisations are given that measures how likely a customer is to recommend or promote that company to someone else. This can help give a good indication as to how your brand is viewed—for example, if you have strong revenue figures but a poor NPS, trouble may be down the road.
However, due to NPS’ simplicity, it has its limitations regarding the insight it can give you into customer sentiment and behavior. This is why it is important to review all of the different metrics out there and use the one you think would be most relevant to your business. It may even mean combining a few different ones to try to fully understand your reputation and the lasting impressions that your sales team leaves on customers. As a result, a concerted focus on not only revenue and outcomes but on the process to get there should be factored into all strategic decisions and subsequent training of your workforce.
In business, what you say matters, but what you do is crucial—the reputation you’re building is only legitimate if those in your company back it up with their actions. This is why building a positive reputation and putting wider reputational efforts at the core of your business, prioritising them alongside other key business goals such as revenue or costs, is key to future success.
In the world today, talk travels quickly, and there are countless examples in recent times of business outcomes being inextricably linked to the perception a company has in the public forum. Ensuring that you approach sales with integrity, transparency and honesty is more important today than it ever has been. Creating the right culture within your company can lead to the right reputation being presented outward.