A sales manager’s ultimate goal is to get their entire sales team to deliver. When a sales accountability culture is introduced, it means everybody pitches in and pulls their weight. If the company plans to achieve its target, everybody from the junior salesperson to the senior sales executive does everything possible to deliver results.
However, more eager sales representatives may deploy less-than-savoury tactics to hit their numbers. This includes undercutting rivals by offering steep discounts, which can negatively affect the bottom line. Instead of helping, these measures can push the goal out of reach.
Consequently, the sales manager arrives at a crossroads. How do you make your sales team accountable for their actions and decisions? Despite rugged marketplace competition, how can you align everybody’s goals with acting as one cohesive unit?
Sales accountability is a powerful tool that can help rally troops under a common cause, having each member of the organization take ownership of their process. In the same way, your sales representatives take credit for their success, they should also learn to take accountability for their failures.
What is sales accountability?
When management assigns the sales team its sales targets, the sales manager now has to come up with a plan to make sure every member can get there. In turn, the sales representatives will get busy figuring out how to hit their personal targets. Pressure will begin to rise once some sales reps hit their quotas while the others remain mired at the starting gate. Faced with looming deadlines, some salespeople will resort to last-resort measures to get their clients to pull the trigger. Some will offer the maximum discount allowed. In extreme cases, some will even waive their commissions altogether.
Losing sight of the overall goal, the panicked salesperson will instead focus on hitting their assigned target at any cost. But in doing so, is the sales rep contributing to the bottom line? Heavy discounts often lead to lower revenue, which means you have to sell to more people to hit the same target. Selling additional products can lead to additional strain for other groups, such as production, warehousing, marketing, and customer support. None of this is productive, much less smart business.
Sales accountability allows a manager to align the goals and expectations of each sales team member. Managers apply sales accountability strategies that help instill confidence in each member that they can achieve individual goals without compromising team objectives. Managers can make timely and necessary interventions by requiring sales representatives to take ownership of their performances.
The problem with accountability
According to business coach Steve Smith, most people learn that accountability involves following an authority figure. As we progress toward adulthood, we aim to stay in the good graces of parents and teachers. That eventually translates to our higher-ups in the workplace. As a result, accountability becomes a concept that requires compliance with other people’s requirements. Instead, Smith argues that people should focus on accounting for their own actions. Doing so repeatedly trains the brain to realize that action or inaction on any goal will lead to consequences. It’s about hard results, not personal approval.
The same thinking applies to sales accountability. It influences salespeople to remain committed to the overall goal by owning their progress and remaining open to improvement. In most cases, sales accountability can produce positive results once the sales rep realizes they have the power to take control of their sales career.
Apple’s Directly Responsible Individual (DRI)
Beyond self-actualization, another similar concept is popular among many progressive development teams. Technology powerhouse Apple was the first to develop the Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) concept. From the lowest-ranking employee to the highest executive, the company assigns a DRI to account for individual performance. They both become accountable for that employee’s output.
Though perhaps a bit foreign, the logic of the DRI is fundamentally sound. Rather than spend time and resources rooting out the individual for blame or praise, the DRI becomes the automatic culprit. This way, the company can rectify damages faster or accelerate success. More importantly, by continually establishing ownership and assuming responsibility, DRIs and their sponsored employee will eventually foster healthy trust between one another. Ultimately, this bond will permeate throughout the entire team.
Positive effects of sales accountability
In addition to increased accountability, the entire sales team will benefit from improving the workplace culture. The sales team committed to a culture of accountability can enjoy the following:
Better trust among team members
Open communication with a culture of accountability can increase trust among employees and between employees and workplace leaders. This can contribute to job satisfaction and productivity.
With everybody in the organization willing to own their accomplishments and mistakes, team members are now more resolute in trying. Sales accountability requires transparency, so sales reps will do their utmost to get the job done rather than be exposed for not playing their part.
Improved quality and enhanced creativity at work
The increase in productivity also reflects in the quality of work, which ultimately leads to better chances of company success. In addition, a positive environment can lead to an increase in creative output. This burst of creativity can help generate out-of-the-box solutions for longstanding issues.
With everybody visibly carrying their own weight, all members now see themselves as accountable to everybody else. This helps encourage better communication among individuals and the team as a whole. Over time, better communication instills higher trust in one another.
How to create a positive sales accountability culture
The sales manager should create a positive culture of accountability in the sales office. Instead of the usual office activity of passing the blame, you’ll see sales team members taking responsibility for their own actions and course-correcting on their own.
To create the right atmosphere to lead to a culture of sales accountability, the sales manager should start the groundwork themself. Here’s how to do just that:
1. Define workplace goals and expectations
Asking salespeople to become accountable for their actions means laying out specific expectations from the start. This includes a clear definition of the sales team goals and individual targets. Only by providing consistent rules to achieve the goals can team members stay focused on the job ahead. In addition, assigning specific responsibilities to accomplish team targets means that members become aware of the tasks directly assigned and accountable to them.
Furthermore, clearly defining goals requires full disclosure of the rewards that await the successful sales rep. Having an idea of what lies ahead can fuel the competitive fire. In other words, there must be no grey areas when setting goals and expectations. Clear targets can motivate sales to shoot for the goal, while assigning specific accountability can instil ownership and responsibility.
Define where and when sales representatives can make their own moves
At some point in their careers, sales representatives will encounter situations where they need to make on-the-spot decisions. The sales rep’s action during these situations often determines the deal’s success.
That’s why the sales manager must set boundaries for those decisions. This includes the authorization to negotiate, allow discounts, call in a manager, or bring customer support. Sales reps need to know exactly how much authority they have before they’re in the thick of things. Otherwise, they risk winning their personal battles at the company’s cost.
2. Have clear channels of communication
Part of establishing sales accountability is opening communication channels so everybody can exchange ideas clearly and continually. Communication remains an essential part of the team dynamic, and only through constant interaction can a team establish its identity and culture.
In that same breath, new members must participate in team activities to truly understand their new team’s culture. Meanwhile, senior members and leaders must consistently promote and grow the team culture so newer members can embrace the positive elements. By practicing constant communication, the sales team can slowly shape its culture and maintain continuity.
Effective communication makes everything clear
Another positive aspect of establishing clear communication channels is that it makes it easy for members to clarify issues or concerns that can cause miscommunication. At the same time, members can provide a helpful hint or timely advice to a co-worker who could use a hand.
An always-ready channel also means a direct line of access to the sales manager in times of need. Sometimes, the client just wants assurance from a higher-up. Most of the time, they’re looking to ask for concessions that are way above the agent’s decision-making powers. In these cases, getting your boss on the line at the right time might be the clincher that closes the deal.
The need for reliable communications technology
While regular meetings are the obvious venues for the entire team to meet and interact, it also pays for sales teams to invest in cloud apps that help keep team members connected. A busy sales manager might not have enough time to track all team members individually. Using the right sales app helps them connect with any of their agents so that they can provide the needed information, timely coaching, or mere moral support.
The best case scenario is having mobile sales management and CRM apps that provide real-time, critical sales data for field agents. These apps connect the entire team and empower sales reps to provide clients with the information they need at a moment’s notice.
3. Lead by example and hold yourself accountable
As the team’s undisputed leader, all eyes are always on the sales manager. When the team requires sales accountability from each member, the leader should step up and serve as the shining example for everybody. By holding themselves to the same standard they expect everyone else too, the sales manager demonstrates the organization’s commitment to fairness and accountability. Leading by example remains one of the best and most effective ways to make others respect and adorn the team culture.
Sales accountability begins with you
Great, you’ve outlined the goals, assigned the targets, shared expectations, and listed the corresponding risks and rewards. What’s next?
Well, it’s time to make everybody understand that you will also be held to the same standards. Start by setting your team loose so they can begin performing their jobs and holding themselves accountable. It’s helpful to note that part of the leader’s accountability is allowing individuals to hold themselves accountable. This means trusting them to perform their jobs, own up to their shortcomings, and claim their successes.
Meanwhile, as a mentor and leader, the sales manager should also ensure that each team member receives the support, training, advice, and tools they need to get the job done. Their success remains contingent on their leader’s ability to assist. Making good on your bargain is advisable to prompt others to accomplish theirs. Simply put, for better or for worse, it all starts with you.
The leadership checklist
That being said, leadership comes with a heavy price. To maintain the high standards you’ve set, you’ll need to be able to monitor everyone’s success. This means performing the unenviable task of learning the specifics of each member’s job title.
To help check each sales team member’s accountability, the sales manager should have no problems knowing the following details:
- Individual target and contribution to the total goal for each member
- Current number of leads and clients
- The typical sales journey for each member
- The specific strategy for each sales rep to reach the sales target
- Current issues/roadblocks that prevent deals from closing
- Type of assistance and coaching needed
4. Foster learning moments and friendly competition
When reps inevitably start to get complacent (they’re human, after all!), the enterprising sales manager should look to spice things up. For members needing extra help getting their clients to give that golden ‘Yes,’ the sales leader can organize refresher courses or schedule a ride-along with each sales rep. Furthermore, tagging along with the lagging reps can also serve as a confidence booster – as well as a reminder that you have their backs.
In an environment that promotes sales accountability, getting quality time with the boss while learning valuable points isn’t an indictment of poor performance. Instead, positive, forward-thinking salespeople will see it as a necessary step to recharge, recalibrate, and progress.
If the team’s collective sales numbers need a boost, organize friendly competitions to put some pep in their step. Offering incentives, prizes, or oh-so-coveted bragging rights will ignite a spark in reward-driven sales reps. Encourage workplace competition and light-hearted banter by asking staff to post their wins on a makeshift scoreboard. Or, have someone send scores and updates regularly via the group chat. Make sure the contests remain fair and that all participants are on board.
It doesn’t have to be competitive all the time
Of course, not every organized activity should focus on generating more sales or dissecting performance. Sales teams occasionally suffer from a dry spell or suddenly experience a halt in the winning streak. That’s life. And sometimes, they only require simple picker-upper events like a team barbecue, a group night out, or even a movie group date to kick.
As long as it’s a fun activity where everybody can join in and relax, it can be a nice bonding moment that strengthens the team’s ties. If all else fails, your team might be due for a break. Between a team activity and granting everybody some much-deserved R&R, some time off from work should surely do the trick.
5. Measure and review sales and accountability metrics
Instead of depending on anecdotes from team members, the accountable team leader should base performance evaluations on measurable benchmarks. It’s the only way to objectively assess a team member’s performance.
The team should use measurable objectives and realistic milestones during the goal-setting phase. This makes it easy for the sales manager to make spot evaluations when necessary and compare current performance with baseline figures. For example, sales managers can check on a sales rep’s number of scheduled visits during a specific time period. They can then compare the results with the actual number of visits made and the established baseline. The sales manager can then determine if the agent visited too few clients or if they spread themselves too thin. Both of these scenarios are easily fixable – but only if you’re aware they’re happening.
Other metrics worth watching
The sales team should monitor each rep’s quota accomplishment since the overarching goal is hitting the sales and revenue target. This metric can highlight every meeting, as each day can show that the team is nearing target achievement. If they’re not, the meeting can focus on getting the sales agents to pick up the pace.
Another good metric to look out for is the win rate. This is the ratio of closed deals to issued quotes. This metric helps show each agent’s propensity to close deals. Sales reps with lower-than-expected win rates can benefit from additional coaching sessions focusing on closing techniques and handling objections.
Additionally, sales teams should look into metrics such as conversion rate and sales cycle length. The former deals with how good agents are at converting leads into customers, while the latter measures the time between initial contact and the actual purchase. Both metrics focus on the agents’ abilities to get clients to purchase, like quota accomplishment and win rate.
Of course, there are other sales metrics worth considering, as well. Simply choose the best metrics for your sales team’s unique situation and goals. Regardless, always remember to keep evaluation sessions as simple as possible. Throwing too many numbers and metrics at sales reps will likely confuse them and do more harm than good.
Final thoughts: sales accountability makes for better sales teams
Implementing sales accountability in your sales team can pay off hugely in the long run. Each sales rep will learn the value of taking responsibility for their actions and owning up to their performance. In addition, having a team of responsible, accountable members can boost trust and camaraderie. Ultimately, this can lead to improved team performance, better teamwork, and increased sales.
To make the most of sales accountability, equip your team with the right tools. Skynamo is a cloud-based sales management and customer retention management (CRM) software designed for field sales agents. Instead of scurrying back and forth, Skynamo empowers sales representatives to present their clients with all the information they need in real-time. Meanwhile, sales managers can use Skynamo’s sales management features to track their agent’s performance in the field. Company leaders can use these insights to accurately guide their agents to success.
Learn more about how Skynamo can help you turn your field service operations into a cohesive, well-informed team. We’ll be happy to give you a free demonstration so you can see what we’re about for yourself. Nothing to lose and everything to gain – that’s the Skynamo way.