The best sales organizations have a positive culture of accountability. There are very few leaders who would argue that accountability is necessary for sales, but very few talk about high standards and accountability with their sales force, a necessity in our chosen endeavor.
It isn’t easy to lead high-growth sales organizations and reach your goals without accountability. Here is how to talk to your sales force about accountability.
Why We Need Accountability
One of the reasons so many people who want to work in sales wash out very quickly is because sales roles provide more autonomy than most other roles, which is true even though most of us are knowledge workers and direct our work. What makes our role so different from others is that so much of the work that we do is not time-bound.
Unlike an operational role where certain things have to be done at a certain time, most of our outcomes aren’t something that someone is counting on by a certain time. A good example is prospecting. If you prospect from 8 AM to 9:30 AM, there is no difference than had you done that work between 2 PM to 3:30 PM. You might generate two new meetings on Monday and spend more time prospecting on Tuesday without acquiring a single meeting.
The autonomy that comes with sales is a problem for those who lack self-discipline. They go days without doing their work, telling themselves they’ll do the work tomorrow. Today is yesterday’s tomorrow, a fact that seems to be lost on those who can’t will themselves to do their job without someone directing or monitoring their work. They give up days and weeks, and eventually, the consequences of doing too little for far too long catches up with them.
We have a positive culture of accountability because it helps keep us on track. It gives us deadlines, ensuring we are doing the right amount of work, and producing the right results as we work against the clock.
Accountability for Outcomes
The way that we look at accountability begins with financial results. Each of us has a target we are responsible for hitting. These financial outcomes are driven by the company’s strategic plan to grow, compete, and capture market share, allowing us to help more clients produce better results. This is one of the ways that we measure our success.
Those financial results only come to fruition if we do the work necessary to generate the outcomes that produce those financial results. The two primary outcomes that produce financial results are opportunity creation and opportunity capture. We’re accountable for creating new opportunities and then winning them. When we struggle to create these outcomes, generally, we’re not creating the outcomes that precede new opportunities and new deals.
No one wants to hold you accountable for doing enough activity to create the opportunities you need to reach your target. These accountabilities cascade down from financial to outcomes to activity. Some salespeople succeed where others fail because they hold themselves accountable for the activity, never requiring anyone to have a conversation with them about the repercussions of too little or too ineffective activity.
I expect everyone on our team to manage themselves without anyone having to discuss the activity. If we have to talk about activity, we are in deep trouble. I never expect to have to look at the amount of work you do. I am more than happy, however, to talk about how we improve our effectiveness.
Accountability to Our Clients
We are also accountable to our clients. We are responsible for being industry experts with a consultative sales approach that enables our clients to make good decisions about how they might produce better results. We’re accountable for giving them the best advice and counsel available. That means that we have to develop the insights and ideas that will cover any gaps in their knowledge, providing them with a higher resolution lens through which to see their business.
We are also responsible for the outcomes our clients are buying from us when they buy our solutions. We need to ensure that they’re able to execute effectively, and if not, to intervene and help them make the changes necessary to succeed. This accountability is non-negotiable. We always want to sell in a way that gives us an absolute right to the next opportunity.
Accountability to Yourself
There is nothing more powerful when it comes to creating better results than being accountable to yourself. There are no commitments greater than the commitments you make to yourself.
The autonomy and the discipline that comes with sales provides greater control over your income and the quality of your life. Accountability is the first accountability and the most important. You have to be true to yourself. But you also have a responsibility to the other people in your life. You have a responsibility to be an example, and most likely, a provider. For many of us, caring for others is enough to drive us to do our best work and produce the best results possible.
The best advice I can give you about accountability is to hold yourself accountable with such rigor and discipline that no one would dare to ask you any question about what you’re doing, except to discover how they might emulate your success.
Get the Free eBook!
How to Lead: The Leadership eBook
As leaders, we're faced with decisions everyday—not all of which are easy to make. Learn how to make those tough decisions, hold yourself and your team accountable, and build a legacy with this free eBook.Download Now