A strong bond of trust between the customer and the sales team is essential. If a customer trusts you, they’re more likely to give you their business. They will hopefully treat you as a trusted advisor with whom they can collaborate on a top-notch solution for their company.
But creating an internal environment of support and trust is equally critical within the sales team. Such a workplace is proven to inspire higher performance, greater productivity and better employee engagement, as Entrepreneur notes. Furthermore, Harvard Business Review found that employees at high-trust organizations also collaborate better with their colleagues and stay with their employers longer.
Clearly, an atmosphere of trust is essential to the success of any sales organization. And it’s up to the sales leaders and managers to create it. But what does that type of environment look like, and how do you build it?
At Clari, we use five key tactics to create a supportive and trustworthy environment that inspires and nurtures our sales workforce. Here’s how.
Flextime allows employees to structure their day for the greatest efficiency and productivity. The practice acknowledges all of the demands on employees’ time, such as caring for young children or aging parents. Workers feel supported—for example, Harvard Business Review found that after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology implemented a flexible work policy in 2015, 62% of the university’s staff reported feeling more trusted and respected at work.
Flextime also benefits the business. For example, a Society for Human Resource Management survey found that half or more of businesses that have implemented flexible work arrangements have experienced better recruitment and retention, increased employee performance, and greater organizational success. The same survey found that implementing telecommuting policies alone decreased absenteeism by 32% and increased productivity by 8%.
But in order for flextime to work, the organizational culture needs to support it by clearly delineating expectations, such as availability and communication, and by supporting managers. In turn, managers must rethink what the workday looks like. This means giving sales team members a certain degree of autonomy, allowing them to manage their own time, and assessing their work based on transparent data and hard facts obtained from a universal, accessible source.
For example, in Clari, managers can review their reps’ accounts to get a sense of their sales activity. Clari also gives everyone on the team a holistic and accurate view of the entire book of business, so everyone works with the same data, and stops relying on manually-entered, error prone, spreadsheet data.
Consistent check-ins are critical here, and they should be done both to assess progress and performance as well as to provide opportunities for coaching, development and feedback.
2. Support for working parents
In addition to offering flextime, another key way to instill trust in your employees is by showing support for those who are, or are planning to be, working parents, notes SHRM. They note that there are three primary ways organizations can formally support families in the workforce:
- Provide financial help, like covering the cost of fertility treatments or subsidizing a portion of annual childcare expenses
- Maximize parental leave
- Offer information and resources, from information pamphlets to career coaching and peer support.
It’s important to note that support for working parents starts and ends with messaging from the top. At Clari, our managers don’t hesitate to mention their children during conversations with their teams, or ask to see and say hello to the tiny voices piping up on Zoom calls.
Transparency around a company’s vision, especially driven by leadership, engenders trust among employees. And trust, as we know, is critical for high employee performance, engagement, collaboration, retention, and more.
“Transparency breeds trust,” writes Jim Link, chief human resources officer of Randstad North America, in Forbes. “Cultivating an atmosphere of transparency can pay tremendous dividends when it comes to creating a truly inclusive culture.”
This is especially important for a startup, where strategies can shift quickly and employees often work in small teams, wearing many hats. Teams should ensure everyone is on the same page by clearly delineating tasks, engaging in shared training, and openly discussing mental health support.
For example, Clari’s CEO, Andy Byrne, has quickly released statements internally and publicly supporting the Asian American and Pacific Islander community as well as Black Lives Matter, and offered an open door policy when it comes to any employee wanting to discuss issues. Laura MacKinnon, Chief People Officer at Clari, encouraged employees take advantage of their peers as resources, the company’s time off policy, and mental health care as needed.
4. Empower employees to grow
Investing in your employees—which includes expressing interest in and support for their individual goals—can go a long way in fostering trust.
“As a company, Clari spends a lot of time educating managers on how to provide growth opportunities for employees, and in turn managers are enabled and encouraged to do so for their teams,” says Natasha Dolginsky, the Director of Growth Marketing at Clari. She notes that opportunities for growth “can exist within the same role, same team, or even cross-functionally.”
In order to promote this employee growth, Dolginsky says, your organization must do three key things:
- Encourage employees to take on new responsibilities and challenges. “Encourage them to step outside of their comfort zones by helping them identify paths for growth,” Dolginsky says. “This also keeps innovation alive.” Include junior staff, too. Just be sure to budget in the time, support, and resources they might need.
- Prioritize innovation. “Employees need sufficient time and space to innovate to allow not only for the learning curve but also for executing without burnout,” Dolginsky says.
- Accept and learn from mistakes. Always include time for questions and feedback. “Failures must be seen and communicated as additional opportunities to learn, instead of reflecting negatively on those employees,” says Dolginsky.
5. Hiring for our values
Values have a greater impact on someone’s ability to thrive at work than skills do, says Alan Lewis, the owner of a $600 million international tour operator, in a Harvard Business Review article. That’s because you can teach skills; you can’t “teach” values. Either someone shares your company’s values, or they don’t.
If you hire based on your core values, according to Forbes, “you will have employees who integrate faster, are more productive on teams and are more likely to stick around.”
The first step to moving towards a values-based hiring approach is first clearly defining your company’s core values. Then, be sure to live them. This includes infusing them into the screening, interview, offer, and onboarding processes, too.
“We can achieve unprecedented levels of performance by having deeply trusting relationships—with our peers, our managers, and our customers,” says MacKinnon. “Trust is accelerated at Clari due to our shared values—we hire, reward, and promote people who demonstrate these values.”
Interested in working at Clari? Learn more.
Read more about building and supporting sales teams:
How to Build and Evolve Your Company Culture
How Leadership Development Drives Sales Success
The Case for Diversity, in Sales Teams and Beyond