“Accountability” is a word that has many interpretations and is often thrown around in the business world without a clear representation of what it actually means. Everyone has a different view of what accountability means to them, so your sales team may think something different than you when you “hold them accountable.” Often, sales team accountability connotes negativity and punishment when that isn’t always the case. In fact, when organizations use accountability only for punishment, fear can permeate throughout the employees, making them nervous or unwilling to present new ideas for fear of failure and discipline. However, if approached correctly, accountability within an organization can produce positive results.
Accountability is a must have for sales team members to both desire and maintain consistent performance. It improves rep retention and boosts organization culture. In short, when you have sales team accountability, your sales goals are met, your team works better, and the whole operation runs more smoothly. All you need to do is create an accountability plan, and follow through on it.
How to Establish and Maintain Accountability
You and your team must know what to do, how to do it and why doing it that way is important. If there isn’t a clearly established accountability system, your sales team and sales goals can potentially fall apart. Start with a clear plan that gets your sales team on board:
- Establish clear goals, backed with objective evidence that they can be achieved. Nothing will be accomplished if the sales team doesn’t know what is expected of them. It can be difficult to do their job when their goals are unclear. To clear up the murkiness, goals should be established and your entire sales team should know what they are.
Then, once you have your goals outlined, show your sales team evidence that they can realistically achieve those goals. If your team doesn’t believe the goals can be met, they won’t work hard to reach them.
- Provide the tools your team needs to achieve those goals. This can include:
- Discussing behaviors required to produce expected results.
- Defined differentiation, as well as target markets.
- Marketing and Operations integration to smooth transitions from leads to active accounts.
- Clear processes for accessing and WINNING that target market.
- Productivity tools, such as a CRM customized for your unique processes, for easily tracking and managing account progress through the process, such as automated reporting.
- Follow through on the execution of 1 and 2 above. If there is no follow through, your sales team will begin to think that accountability has no meaning and thus, no consequences for not making a sale. It can also go the opposite way and your sales team may not work hard because they don’t believe they will be rewarded for closing a sale.
- Have defined, consistent, corrective action plans in place. If sales team members fall short, corrective action plans can help them improve without the fear of punishment. There should be no exceptions to this, including your top performers. Top performers can become complacent if they think no consequences will befall them. Reward exceptional performance in other ways that do not include free passes on requirements the rest of the team must meet. Also, for sales team accountability to be thought of in a positive light, rewarding exceptional performance will not only reinforce that performance, but also inspire other team members to do better.
- Manage numbers and lead people.
- Duplicate the wins. You will find that certain aspects of sales team accountability works very well for your team. If that is the case, use that strength to duplicate your wins and continue to close new sales.
- Adjust processes for system-wide misses. For example, if everyone is having trouble closing similar deals, there needs to be an adjustment to the process rather than a punishment for the team members. Show your sales team that you are managing the number for their benefit so they can improve, and earn more.
- Coach individuals for specific misses. Not every team member works and thinks the same way. Get into a one-on-one session or join a sales call or meeting to review and discuss how a miss could have been handled differently, and how that difference will help improve their performance for future sales.
Sales Team Accountability Leads to Positive Results
The end goal with accountability is to see positive results. Implementing sales team accountability means nothing if you don’t communicate, follow through and meet your sales goals. Avoid using accountability as a means of punishment. Instead, use it as a way to improve the working environment which will, in turn, improve your sales. But it’s not just about higher sales. Practicing a constructive approach to accountability also improves performance, engagement and participation, and increases commitment, creativity and innovation. In short, accountability properly structured and administered leads to happier and more productive sales teams.
Not sure if your sales processes are instilling the accountability you need to drive consistent growth? Take the quick and free Sales Agility Assessment and see right away what your sales operation might be missing.
Jon Anderson is President of Sidehill Consulting and provides hands-on service as an Outsourced VP of Sales. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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