Focus on Sales Growth: The Accountability Factor


Simply put, accountability is one of the most impactful ways to help a struggling organization achieve its sales and growth goals. That might sound obvious, but it’s also true that accountability is often downplayed or ignored. Part of the problem with sales accountability is that it is not quite as simple as it seems. Accountability isn’t just about meeting monthly quotas; for corporate sales growth to be sustainable, accountability must also become a philosophical foundation of the company’s sales culture. With that in mind, here is how you can help create continuing sales success by making a shared commitment to accountability:

Make Accountability Part of Your Culture

Too often, companies go through the motions of setting goals only to push them into the shadows while bringing daily sales busywork to the forefront. For accountability to become a true lever for growth, however, it can’t be paid mere “lip service”. Rather, accountability must truly matter from the top of the organization on down, with a clear commitment to setting goals and attaining them at every level. For that to happen, each level of management must be aware of how their departmental and functional goals, metrics, activity and compensation tie into the overall corporate objectives.

Establish Goals – Together

You know that goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely). But for goals to be a motivator – and for accountability to matter – they must also be developed jointly by the Sales Manager and his or her sales teams. Without a united buy-in to corporate sales objectives (overall and individual), morale suffers while efforts to enforce accountability become harder to sustain (after all, it was their goal and not your goal, right?). On the other hand, with everyone on board with goals that have been developed jointly, there can be little room for excuses when these goals aren’t met.

Measure and Report Progress Regularly

That “M” in “SMART” is critical to accountability. Goals must be measurable to be meaningful. But it is equally important for these measurements to be shared, not just at the end of a sales year, but continuously. Small business owners typically don’t take advantage of tracking key performance indicators through a Customer Relationship Management system, or CRM.

If they utilized a CRM, they would enable salespeople to know where they stand relative to their in-process goals. It would also make it easier for them to more effectively manage time and relationships. Of course, it also empowers the Sales Manager to see where each salesperson stands relative to goals and quotas; and to respond by encouraging, coaching, training, rewarding or even chastising as appropriate.

Communicate and Enforce Consequences

What is at risk if goals are not met? Will commissions be lost? Will revenue-sharing be sacrificed? Will the company not be able to hire additional staff? Will the poorly performing salesperson’s job be in jeopardy? Does the very future of the company hang in the balance? While these might be mostly big-picture consequences, specific ramifications can – and should – be tied to non-attainment of clearly stated objectives. And with regular snapshots of performance made possible by the CRM, any setbacks in attaining sales goals can be addressed in the moment with adjustments made so the salesperson can get back on track for success.

Keep in mind, however, that consequences should never be a surprise. Just as the goals must always be clearly understood, with progress toward these goals being communicated often, so must the consequences of poor performance be recognized by all. These consequences – which might include a performance improvement plan, reallocation of responsibilities, or even termination – should be seen as the natural result of poor performance that was identified and communicated throughout the sales or performance cycle.

Communicate and Reinforce Achievement

It is unfortunate that most sales leaders too often focus on what is not going well and neglect to celebrate successes. Sadly, these sales leaders spend too much time on poor performers while ignoring top performers who are “part of the solution.” The better method, of course, is for managers to publicly communicate when quotas are met or exceeded. This kind of public praise (within the sales organization, that is), when shared “in the moment” can become a motivating kind of peer pressure. That immediacy reinforces accountability so that it becomes more organic and innate to the salesperson, rather than being an external force applied by the Sales Manager.

Adjust as Needed

Conditions change, industries evolve, and the sales organization is a dynamic culture within the company. Therefore, it is important to be aware of factors, both internal and external, that impact goals and their attainment. Holding salespeople accountable for goals that become unrealistic due to changing conditions beyond their control can devastate morale and send productivity plunging. But making and communicating adjustments – up or down – to sales goals and holding salespeople accountable to the new set of objectives sends the message that management is in tune with the salesperson’s challenges.

Bottom Line:

Small to medium-sized companies often don’t set goals, and even when they do, they don’t hold their salespeople accountable for achieving them. Communication is key. In many organizations, salespeople think they are doing a good job without truly understanding that management is unhappy with them. How can that be? Goals are unclear, communication is poor, and accountability becomes impossible.

Our Advisors help business owners set the right sales objectives and put the right measures and tracking systems in place to make sure those objectives are met. In other words, they make your sales team accountable and keep everyone on track to achieve company growth.

To learn more about how our proven systems help small to medium-sized businesses and sales organizations achieve significant sales growth, reach out to an Advisor today.