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All sales organizations are pursuing their sales goals during a difficult time, as buyers expect more from their providers. Reaching high levels of success starts with accountability. Salespeople have more freedom over their time than people in most other business roles, so it's important that they be accountable for certain outcomes within an allotted time frame. To produce the best results, B2B sales leaders work to build a positive culture of accountability.

Short-term strategies that create a negative form of accountability ruin sales teams. There are methods available to you that will not only create and sustain sales accountability but also create a positive sales culture, which improves sales results.

What Is Sales Accountability?

Sales reps are responsible for creating opportunities and winning clients. Sales leadership sets expectations and helps their team align with the organization’s vision and goals, but every salesperson knows what they need to do to create sales success. In this context, accountability extends to the different sales objectives they need to pursue, like increasing revenue, capturing market share, or cross-selling their existing clients.

Two Hierarchies in Organizations

There are two different approaches to holding sales teams accountable. Each approach establishes a specific hierarchy, or order of values within the organization. The first factor in creating sales accountability is the nature of the hierarchy.

Dominator Hierarchy

One type of hierarchy is a dominator hierarchy, where leaders dominate the people on their team. This is most common under autocratic leaders who use top-down management and do not understand how to develop salespeople to increase their effectiveness.

You will always remember the sales manager that thought holding you accountable meant constantly reminding you to increase your cold outreach and book more first meetings. That sales manager couldn't help you improve your sales effectiveness, so instead they demanded more activity. Managers in a dominator hierarchy use force, threats, and coercion, and demand compliance. They believe that punishment is the only way to hold people accountable. The resulting culture is toxic, and these leaders are often fired for lack of performance.

Growth Hierarchy

The second type of hierarchy focuses on growth. In a growth hierarchy, people are encouraged to increase their skills and improve their effectiveness. Leaders help develop their teams by using positive methods to hold them accountable for producing results.

Unlike the dominator hierarchy, which uses punitive measures of enforcement, the growth hierarchy creates the psychological safety necessary for true improvement. Instead of punishing failure, it focuses on supporting salespeople as they aim to improve their skills, competencies, and results.

The best leader you have ever had recognized your abilities and challenged you to pursue your potential. They raised your standards and expected more of you. This isn’t always pleasant, especially when salespeople don’t feel ready for their performance to be held to a higher standard, however, in a positive culture of accountability, leadership offers coaching and help so that salespeople can grow. These leaders recognize you for your growth, your results, and your potential for improvement.

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Clear Expectations and Goals

Leaders that cultivate positive sales accountability provide clear expectations and goals. Good leaders will communicate in ways their team can understand and act on. Instead of saying something like, “You should do more prospecting,” the sales leader will say, “I expect you to spend 90 minutes on prospecting every day.” The goal is objective and concrete. There is no confusion about what the leader expects or how the salesperson’s performance will be measured.

When we talk about sales goals, most of the time we are referring to revenue goals. Good leaders provide goals that ensure the high performance needed to increase sales. Those goals might include a set of outcomes the salesperson is responsible for delivering, like scheduling three first meetings every week, or creating two opportunities over $100,000 annually.

A leader who wants to hold their salespeople accountable will communicate their expectations and set up the guardrails that keep their sales force from failing. Some of those guardrails are deadlines for certain results critical to success.

Strategies and Tactics That Produce Results

When a leader provides a goal, they are responsible for ensuring their sales team is armed with the sales strategies and tactics that win new clients. One mistake leaders make around accountability is believing the sales force doesn't need a model and approach that allows them to succeed. A salesforce without a set of value creation strategies causes decision-makers to prefer another salesperson over their competition.

A sales leader that is unwilling or unable to teach their sales team how to create and win new deals will have a more difficult challenge reaching their goals. A great sales leader will insist their team use the best and most effective sales model and ensure they get training and development that delivers results.

Consistent Review of Results

One way to lose accountability is failure to consistently review results. The sales manager who regularly cancels their meetings will discover accountability is missing, largely because they have been missing.

A consistent salesforce reports its results frequently. A weekly sales meeting is a good cadence for a pipeline meeting. One reason to review results is that you want to intervene as early as possible when one of your salespeople is struggling. Most of the time, it's a traditional sales slump, but intervening early can help get a sales rep back on track.

Creating a positive culture of sales accountability starts with understanding the two hierarchies in organizations: a dominator hierarchy, where leaders dominate their teams, and a growth hierarchy, where leaders help develop their teams by providing clear expectations and goals. Leaders should also set up guardrails that keep their sales force from failing, and provide recognition and rewards when their salespeople meet or exceed expectations.

To ensure positive sales accountability, leaders should create an open and honest culture of communication within their team and provide strategies and tactics that produce results. Consistent review of results is also key, allowing leaders to intervene early when one of their salespeople is struggling. By creating a positive culture of sales accountability, sales teams can expect to see improved results.

Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 7, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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