Your Company’s Culture: Does Sales Eat First?


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I don’t hear the phrase “sales culture” very much any more. That’s too bad. In the past, that phrase was most commonly used in two situations.

First, by venture capitalists who were determining if a CEO in whose company they were considering investing had the orientation and experience to support sales to the extent that it would drive the company’s growth at a predictable and significant rate. There was always a danger, especially with tech companies. Founders too often depended on product innovation to drive sales and paid little attention to the sales function, as in “the product will sell itself.” (I’m certainly willing to admit that Apple survived rather well using that model.)

The second situation related to high-performing sales people who wanted to understand whether the companies they were interviewing with had a sales culture. They wanted to be sure that they would be empowered, not inhibited, in their selling efforts.

When I think “sales culture” I think Larry Ellison and Oracle. I think Marc Benioff and I also think Kevin Madden and Joe Puishys at Honeywell Building Solutions (HBS).

I first heard the phrase “sales eats first” at a President’s Club meeting in San Diego where I presented to HBS’s top salespeople a few years ago. Kevin Madden (VP World Wide Sales at Honeywell Building Solutions) and Joe Puishys (President of Honeywell International) each spoke as well. It was Joe who talked about what “sales eats first” meant to him and the future success of Honeywell. Kevin was beaming, having the unusual and unqualified support of his boss.

The following is a quote from an 2007 article by Joe Kornik in Sales & Marketing Management Magazine about Joe and Kevin.

“One of the defining moments [of a cultural turnaround] was when Joe spoke for the first time in front of the sales team,” Madden says. “He stood in front of the troops, and he said ‘I’m going to tell you right here and now—sales eats first.’ It sounds simple, but that declaration completely changed how we played the game.

That’s what I’m talking about.

Please read the article about Honeywell, Kevin, Joe, and “sales eats first” here. And don’t miss the section at the end about ESR’s role. We’re especially proud to have worked with Kevin and his team during the evaluation and selection process for a new sales performance improvement partner. Performance Methods, Inc. won that business and is still going strong at Honeywell having been a partner in the transformation and a significant contributor to Honeywell’s success as we expected they would.

I’m not sure why having a sales culture either isn’t talked about much anymore or it isn’t seen as the positive thing it is. Come back to me in a comment with your views on the importance of a sales culture. I’m really interested in your opinions and experiences.

Photo credit: © Alexander Raths –

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Stein
Dave specializes in helping his clients win critical B2B sales opportunities as well as helping them hire the best sales talent.Dave is co-author of Beyond the Sales Process. He wrote the best-selling How Winners Sell in 2004.


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