"If you don't work at building your company culture it will build itself. And, I promise you, you won't like the results."

Welcome to my mini-lecture for entrepreneurs who don't understand the significance of their company's culture. Shaping your culture takes time and money. Of course, these are commodities that many small business owners feel they don't have enough of, so integrating values, vision, and mission into their plan is an afterthought at best.

Culture is the cake.

To some, company culture is the icing on the cake, but they're way off base. Your culture is not the icing, it is the cake. Today, savvy consumers and decision-makers look for the story behind the company before they buy.

Research says that customers put their money where the culture is.

Northwestern University's Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement found that organizations with deeply engaged employees had better sales numbers and customer satisfaction. We also know that customers show a preference for culture-driven companies. Northwestern University's Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement recently found that customers of organizations where employees were more engaged used the company's products and services more often and were more satisfied than customers of companies with less engaged employees. In a country where 70 percent of employees claim that they are not engaged at work, you could have the upper hand. Your culture could become one of your most powerful sales tools.

You and your sales team should tell the same story.

The values that comprise your company culture tell a story about your brand. Why are your customers important and how is that reflected in your service? Why is yours one of the most engaging places to work? Why do your employees care so much about the product and customers? In what ways is the cooperative relationship between the company and its vendors beneficial to the process? What are the most compelling customer experience stories you have to tell?

Storytelling is memorable and persuasive, statistics are not. Make sure that anyone who represents your business tells the same story, and that it's compelling.

Keep your team in the loop.

Broken communication is a problem for many organizations. The sales team makes promises that can't be kept and the delivery team is unaware of what the client has been told. Don't exclude your teams from conversations that may affect how they do their jobs.

Express the importance of honesty.

Trust is one of the top influencers of purchasing decisions. When a company weaves integrity into the fabric of their culture it must be demonstrated through the behavior of those in the field. Most people aren't outright liars, but some may stretch the truth, avoid a direct answer, or over-promise. You and your sales team should be armed with the same answers to challenging questions. The way you handle objections tells a story about your company, so make sure it's a favorable one.

Keep virtual salespeople up to date on your policies.

If your sales force is largely absent from the office, they will not feel as much a part of your culture as those who are physically present. Companies that operate remotely need structure around their culture as well. It's easy to neglect team members who aren't in the office every day, so go out of your way to discuss and demonstrate the important points of your culture.

Prospects can sense when a culture is shaky, so invest your time and yes, money, into organizing a strong and favorable culture. When your team is equipped to pitch all of the benefits of working with your company, especially the intangibles, you'll have a solid foundation for your brand. Your people will thrive, and your sales will rise.

Published on: Oct 21, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.