Creating a Culture of Accountability for Your Sales Team
Are your sales managers doing everything they can to create a culture of accountability for your sales organization? If you ask them they’ll say,
“Absolutely, we hold them accountable every sales meeting.”
And your follow up questions should be “Accountable to what?!” In our experience many sales leaders struggle with true accountability because they focus on the wrong things.
Here are six (6) specific areas where your sales leaders should focus their time, energy and attention to create a culture of accountability for your sales team.
- Raise expectations – too many sales managers we encounter have a high tolerance for mediocrity.
Stop accepting mediocrity and raise expectations. It starts with your sales manager, so that’s where you should focus.
- Are they too quick to defend their team?
- Do you hear sales managers making excuses on behalf of their sales people?
- Have they set the bar too low for the sales team?
Do they throw other departments under the bus, blaming marketing or operations or engineering or everyone else? Raise your expectations for your sales manager. If you know you have a sales leader who has already established a high tolerance for accepting mediocrity perhaps it’s time to start looking for a new sales manager.
- Be their manager, not their friend – is your sales manager to friendly with their team?
Too many sales managers we coach want to be “one of the gang” and are a little too close to the sales people they manage. Obviously building team spirit and rapport is important, however for some sales managers it is more important to be liked by their sales people than to get the results you expect from them.
It may happen gradually over time. It may be difficult to detect.
When you see your sales manager turn a blind eye toward a weak performer it’s time to raise expectations and remind them that at the end of the day they will be judged on the numbers, not how well liked they are by their team.
- Take responsibility – the worst message to send to the sales team is to have sales managers who raise expectations and hold everyone accountable but fails to take responsibility for themselves.
Do your sales managers take full responsibility for the results they produce? When they lose a deal or miss a revenue target, do they look at themselves and ask questions such as “What can we do differently next time? What can I do better?” Or do they avoid responsibility and look for someone to blame? Are they too quick to throw a team member under the bus when ultimately it was their responsibility?
- Manage behaviors – what does your sales manager measure, results or activities? Too many sales managers are focused solely on the results rather than focusing on the behaviors that drive those results. Sales leaders who can keep their team focused on doing the right behaviors day-to-day, week-to-week will nearly always get the results.
Sales leaders who don’t manage behaviors just hope they get there and cannot explain how they did it or predict whether or not they can do it again.
- Ask questions – are your sales managers applying the same strong questioning skills they developed when they carried a bag for a living, or are they more likely to make statements and proclamations?
Something seems to happen when you add “manager” to a sales person’s title; suddenly they seem to forget that it’s always better to help the customer discover the answer and get to the right conclusion by asking good questions. The only difference now is the “customer” is the sales person they serve and support.
When your sales leader can get a sales person to discover the right answer on their own, the sales person will remember it forever. When your sales leader simply tells them what to do, the sales person will likely ignore them (or worse).
- Manage the Pipeline – are your sales managers closely monitoring every stage of the pipeline?
- How often do they review it?
- Is it balanced?
- When do they jump in to focus on a sales person who is struggling or out of balance?
- Do they use the pipeline reports to focus their coaching conversations?
If sales managers are ultimately judged by the numbers they produce each month, quarter and year it is imperative that they hold the team accountable by closely managing the pipeline.
As you read this, if you have a sinking feeling that maybe your sales organization lacks a strong culture of accountability please contact me.