Behind the Scenes at Samsara: Building a Performance-Driven Sales Culture

November 08, 2019

Sales is not a one size fits all role. Just as products differ from company to company, so do the cultures that define the organization. When looking for a sales role, people often start with the product and then look at the culture. I argue it’s best to do that in reverse.

What is a sales culture and why is it important? Simply put, a sales culture is the combination of knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors that lead sales efforts. By subscribing to a consistent set of values, it’s possible to create a sales environment that is both highly productive and enjoyable to work in, and predictably delivers results to the company.

Of course, there are many types of sales cultures. Often so many that finding the right one for you can be a test in experimentation. But with a little upfront time spent on defining what it is you want and which companies embody that, you can save yourself years of spinning wheels.

At Samsara, we have a performance-driven sales culture.

Why did we choose a performance-driven sales culture? Because it works. A performance-driven culture allows us to obsess over our customers and achieve superior results by ensuring individuals are equipped with the necessary knowledge to perform their roles and responsibilities, work with transparency, and accomplish more as a team than we would as a mere collection of individuals.

Of course, to make any sales culture work, you need to have some underlying tenets by which everyone operates. Here are four of ours: 

1. Execute with urgency

At all times we must operate with a sense of urgency. We believe that if we don’t get in front of prospective customers or find a way to hire top talent, someone else will. This constant sense of urgency means we have to make decisions quickly. It is often the case that scaling a team can make speedy decision-making difficult. While some of that friction will always exist, we prioritize removing as much noise as possible so our teams can go out and execute at their highest level. At Samsara, we do this by creating defined ownership and clear paths to execution, giving teams the tools they need to be successful, and enabling new hires to become experienced reps with training. 

2. Transparency through data

In an environment where decisions are made quickly, transparency is a must. We are a metrics-driven sales team, which means we make decisions based on what the numbers tell us. This means we look at things like sales pipeline data to tell us if future quotas are set fairly, sales funnel stage conversion rates to predict current quarter sales achievement versus plan, and lead conversion rates to determine when to add new sales executives to a given region. Why do we rely so heavily on the data? Because it allows us to be consistent and, most important, unbiased as we evaluate the business and make choices towards growth and scale.

On every Samsara sales floor, you can find a live dashboard that displays quotas with individual and team achievement. We know the sheer amount of communication that has to happen to keep everyone 100% up-to-date at all times is near impossible, so we display this core information to ensure everyone is on the same page. We also clearly document how we got to those numbers because we know the only way to ensure that there is trust built in a fast-moving environment is to be publicly transparent in how we make decisions. This includes both what we are doing well, and especially what we are not doing well. 

3. Pay for performance

In sales, we believe in performance-related pay. Our sales compensation structure is meant to incentivize performers at both an individual and team lead level. Basically, those who achieve great results will receive great rewards. These rewards could come in the form of winning a prize, a dinner at a nice restaurant, sales incentive trips to amazing destinations, and always in the form of a large commission check.

4. Company growth is good for your career

We recognize that people inherently don’t want to perform the same role forever. One of the benefits of Samsara’s pace of growth is that it creates an opportunity for people to step up and take on more responsibility in the form of internal promotions. On an individual level, this allows for personal and career growth at an accelerated pace, and at a business level, it allows us to give increased responsibility to people who know our culture, have the trust of their peers and teams, and have demonstrated a high level of performance and capability. While we provide a clear path for moving from account development representative to closing roles to management through career ladders, this progression is earned. 

High-performance cultures are not for everyone

At Samsara we pride ourselves on a culture of transparency, so I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight that a performance-driven culture like ours may not be for everyone. For many, metrics-driven environments where activity and performance numbers are available for all to see can be uncomfortable. Moreover, a recent study published in the Human Resource Management Journal found that although performance-related pay had direct positive relationships with job satisfaction, employee commitment, and trust in management, it is also associated with work intensification. If you are someone who does not enjoy the intensity that comes with an end of the month or end of the quarter sales target looming, then a performance-driven sales culture may not be right for you. 

There are many options to choose from when it comes to your sales career. The first step, though, is defining the type of sales culture that works best for you. From there, you can narrow down your list of companies and target those with the best product on the market.

We all know that believing in what we’re selling is critical. It’s important to remember that the environment we’re selling in matters just as much. If you think a performance-driven sales culture is one you would thrive in, then I hope to see you in an interview soon!

If you want to join a team of bright, curious people solving cool problems and pioneering new markets, take a look at our open positions at samsara.com/careers.

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