Every great sales force is built on a positive culture of accountability. Many common sales problems, such as too few opportunities or too few new clients, begin with a lack of accountability. Because sales roles provide more autonomy than most other roles, accountability provides the necessary discipline to temper that autonomy sustain sales success.

Accordingly, sales leaders and sales managers who complain about their sales force should first consider whether they have imposed a positive culture of accountability. Without that culture, it will soon become clear that the sales manager or leader has allowed the very behaviors they complain about.

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Not Enough Prospecting

There are only two things a salesperson can do with their time: they can prospect and work on creating new opportunities, or they can pursue the opportunities they have created. Sure, a salesperson could do plenty of other things with their time, like checking email, pulling reports for clients, encasing their coworker’s stapler in Jell-O, or setting up a fantasy football league for the sales team—but none of those will result in new opportunities. You can never win an opportunity you didn't first create, making opportunity creation the top priority.

When a sales team isn’t prospecting, it’s because their sales manager or sales leader is allowing them to avoid that work. Some leaders fear that asking their sales force to block time to make outbound calls and schedule meetings would make them a micromanager. but when there is too little activity, the right response to require more activity. The accountability to schedule meetings and create opportunities is the first line of accountability for any sales organization.

Not Enough Phone Calls

The sales force complains they should not have to pick up the phone and call their prospective clients, especially on Mondays when people are just getting back to work and (allegedly) don't want to talk to a salesperson. This incredibly destructive belief and behavior provides further evidence of a sales culture lacking meaning and purpose. The root of the problem is a sales manager or sales leader who doesn't reinforce the difference their sales force makes by helping their clients with the better results they need, a responsibility that would make Monday the best day to call a prospective client.

The reason a business exists is to create value for its clients or customers. Some of that value comes by providing essential products or services. There is no reason to delay that value, so why wait until Tuesday or Thursday to call a prospective client? A sales force that isn’t convinced the work they do is significant to their clients isn't going to do their best work. Sales managers need to convey the importance of helping their clients improve their results.

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Give Me Warm Leads and Meetings

One of the more destructive trends in B2B sales is letting most salespeople avoid prospecting altogether by subdividing the sales role. The technology companies have led the way with SDRs, BDRs, and a host of other titles that limit an otherwise capable salesperson to prospecting, only to hand the prospect off to another person. This is Taylorism at its worst, with each person being assigned a specific task, the senior salesperson being the "closer."

The slicing of roles and the heavy reliance on marketing often leaves senior salespeople, those with the greatest ability to create value for clients, sitting on the sideline, waiting for someone to provide them with a lead or a meeting. This is like leaving Tom Brady on the bench until Tim Tebow gets the ball to the red zone.

It's all well and good to create leads. But even if you don't have leads, you always have targets, the companies you know spend money in your category and need the very help you provide. You must pursue the companies that would benefit from working with you, making their pursuit another target for accountability.

Too Few Won Deals

A certain type of salesperson will try to convince you they have their own "style." That word alone should set off flashing red klaxons in your head. Most salespeople and sales organizations are already stuck a generation or two behind the modern sales approach, and no “style” will fix that—only a new approach that creates the differentiated experience that would cause their clients to prefer to buy from the salesperson and their company.

There is an accountability necessary for how the salesperson pursues opportunities. Sales is individual, making it the salesperson's responsibility to win the deals they pursue. But that obligation doesn't excuse leaders and managers from training their sales force to sell in a way that stacks the deck in their favor, providing them with every possible advantage in a contest.

Abdicating Your Responsibilities as a Leader

One of your first responsibilities as a sales leader is to set up a positive culture of accountability, the very foundation on which you will build a sales force and the results you need from your team. Most of what you find here are things you should never have to negotiate, as they are critical to success in sales.

A complaint about your sales force’s performance almost certainly stems from a lack of accountability, a problem far beyond any individual salesperson’s results. To remedy those problems, impose accountability in the areas where they are necessary, especially prospecting (opportunity creation) and a modern sales approach (value creation).

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Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 1, 2022
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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