What Sales Management Can Learn From Zappos and Tony Hsieh


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Zappos are now the yard stick for when it comes to creating company culture and generally creating a happy team; a lot can be learned from the way Zappos functions and how your sales management can improve productivity.

Tony Hsieh is without doubt one of the biggest ambassadors of creating a workplace that encourages people to connect and communicate both building relations within the walls of the company but also friendships outside the company too.

With the sales profession there is a mixture of personalities which rarely helps with the construction of a solid culture and a team unity that’s ultimately needed to grow into something much larger.

Taking a look into the Zappos push into creating culture, you can start to take some pointers to implement into your sales management approach:

Make Work Life Inconvenient

Zappos are constructing their new $350 million complex in Las Vegas and this isn’t even the interesting part. What makes it interesting is the fact that Tony and the Zappos team have decided to take away the convenient aspects of commuting, avoiding each other and having multiple exit routes.

Sounds like a prison right? If you think about it, its genius as people will now have to see each other throughout the day, bump into each other or basically recognise faces and be “forced” into some means of communication.

A bridge will be constructed from the car park to the main building making it impossible to get to the street below – not only is the bridge symbolic in terms of building friendships, it’s a really good idea. People will now find it hard to avoid each other but it’ll also be a great opportunity to the employees to walk and talk – generally responsible for small talk that generates new ideas.

Granted you probably aren’t about to construct a mega structure which can be done to your exact specification you can still do some small things to improve (or complicate, whichever way you look at it) team unity and culture:

  • No drawers just open spaces so paper work and files are out in the open – lockers are for personal use.
  • No divides for ‘privacy’ – open space is great for communication but also productivity as employees tend to feel less trapped.
  • Use CRM systems – if everything is tracked and visible for the whole team a sense of competiveness begins to rise.

Avoid Remote Workers

This is a bit of a half and half argument as many will argue that remote workers actually get a lot more done in the same time as an internal team member. Tony has repeatedly said and firmly believes that in order to build a lasting culture there is no room for remote workers, face to face and constant interactions are the only way a company can grow.

Sometimes working from home can be a treat, a release from the stress of an office workplace but the problem with this is you become lost in your own world, feedback takes longer and ideas dwell which either need to be actioned or dropped as soon as possible.

If you’re a sales manager and your team is entirely remote, imagine the emails and stress you’ll have to go through on a daily basis to have a simply conversation (Skype, Chatter and Yammer are a great substitute for face to face conversation but in the end instant messages are still not entirely ‘instant’).

Don’t Do Everything

The Zappos Super complex will be an ecosystem for the team and it’ll house everything they need to grow as a culture and become something huge. However Tony doesn’t feel the need to do what the likes of Facebook and Google are doing, which is to have everything everywhere – gyms, restaurants, coffee bars etc.

Sometimes you just can’t be good at everything, so trying to create a mirage will just dampen the culture as the best won’t be getting delivered and the team will start to see this. Like Tony said, if they can support someone who is going to build a kick ass gym, then why build one inside the complex when it’s going to be a half measure of the passion and enthusiasm someone else may have.

We’ve made the Tactical Towers as comfortable as possible with a super duper coffee machine, a foosball table and Nerf guns but we respect the fact that a gym would be mediocre so we’ve left it to the local companies to host our gym needs.

The point is as a sales manager you need to start appreciating that not everyone is going to be exceptional at every part of the sales process and sometimes you need to take charge. If someone struggles on one aspect of the process, get one of the stronger performers to take over and teach their skills – not only do you promote team skills you also begin to encourage people to help each other.

Company culture is essential for business success and growth, Tony and Zappos have been able to realise that early on and the reality of it is Zappos business model is no different to any other shoe commerce store out there.

The biggest difference is the culture he has been able to create by focusing firstly on the customer service which creates an experience people keep coming back to, and then focusing on the team such as training, feedback, incentives and so on.

This has proven to be a very effective style of management when it comes to helping the team become motivated and successful within the business.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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