Company Culture: Sales Eats First

I hosted best-selling author, Mike Weinberg, the other day for a powerful and memorable webinar about dysfunctional sales management. At one point during our discussion, I brought up the powerful cultural message: “Sales Eats First.”

Recalling that imperative brought me back just a few years…

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 and Tesla 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 and considering 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 Whom do you think of?

I also think back to 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.  Kevin Madden (VP World Wide Sales at Honeywell Building Solutions) and Joe Puishys (former President of Honeywell International, and now CEO and President at Apogee) 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 unqualified support of his boss. I was beaming as well.

(Honeywell Business Solutions, under yet again, strong, new leadership are featured in a case study in Steve Andersen’s and my book, Beyond the Sales Process. In fact, Sean Mahoney, VP of Sales, Honeywell Americas, was a panelist at a recent event Steve and I facilitated. HBS is a Performance Methods, Inc. client.)

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.

I’m not sure why having a sales culture either isn’t talked about very 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 –


Source: Dave Stein

Dave Stein

Most recently, I co-authored Beyond the Sales Process. I graduated from college with a degree in music. After an early career as a professional trumpeter, I transitioned quickly to computer programming. I held many diverse technical, sales and executive positions over the course of two decades: programmer, systems engineer, sales representative, sales manager, director of worldwide sales development, VP of sales, VP of international operations, VP of client services and VP of strategic alliances. I worked in the technology sector for, among other companies, Fortune Systems Corporation, Datalogix International (acquired by Oracle Corporation), and Marcam Corporation (acquired by Wonderware, then Invensys, plc). aboutpicIn 1997 I founded the sales consultancy The Stein Advantage, Inc. We provided expertise, guidance and coaching to our clients in these, among other critical areas: hiring of top sales professionals; analyst relations; development of corporate and selling strategies to overcome tough competitors; increasing compliance by their sales organizations to sales methodologies that had been installed; and re-engineering selling efforts to achieve new levels of credibility and differentiation with higher-level customer executives. Among the many companies with whom I’ve worked are: ALLTEL Corporation, BASF, Bayer, Cardo, Convergys, HP, Honeywell, IBM, Infor, Intermec, Global Crossing, Kronos, Lorentzen-Wettre, MCI, MAPICS, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Microsoft, Minnesota Life (A Securian Company), NEC Japan, NPD Group, Oracle, Pitney Bowes, Progress Software Corporation, Richardson Electronics, Inc., Siemens, Standard & Poor’s, SunGard, Towers Perrin, Unisys, United Technologies, Xerox Office Systems and XO Communications. Add to that list about a hundred or so start-ups and companies under $20 million in sales. Through my past work as a sales consultant, coach, and trainer, I have a unique view of sales methodologies, sales training approaches, and the cultural, behavioral, and business changes required for corporations to excel at the sales function. I understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the ever dynamic challenges of gaining and maintaining competitive advantage through sales organization effectiveness. In 2005 I, along with former Gartner president of research, N. Adam Rin, Ph.D., founded ES Research Group, Inc. I closed down that analyst firm in 2013. I been delighted to have been quoted and recognized in leading business magazines and websites over the years, including Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Inc., The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Forbes. In April 2008 I was appointed Visiting Professor of Sales and Sales Management at the Dublin Institute of Technology, where I regularly deliver seminars for their International Selling Programme. I still continue to speak at sales kick-off meetings and other sales-related events, as well as run workshops around the area of business-to-business sales performance improvement. I regularly contribute articles to Sales and Marketing Management magazine, where I am a member of the advisory board. My Amazon best-selling sales book How Winners Sell was republished as an ebook in August 2015. I am very excited about a new book which will hit the streets on March 1, 2016. Subscribe to this blog to be kept up to date on its progress. I live on the island Martha’s Vineyard, with my wife and two dogs.

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