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Potential into performance

Holding Your Sales People Accountable

13/07/2015 03:36PM

Several months ago I wrote a blog called “More On Telephone Appointment Setting” - thelast paragraph stated: “The best sales people should be hired and then trained and then held accountable for their results. Accountable? Hmmm, that’s a matter for a future article!!”

So, let’s talk about that subject. Accountability.

A true story. When I was first given the honour of being made a sales manager my then GM, said to me “I’m going to hold you personally accountable for the revenue and results of this team and if you want to be any good at this job you’ll hold each of the five sales people accountable”. He was deadly serious, but I didn’t really listen (or maybe understand, or maybe I was too inexperienced to do it). So while I was quite prepared to be held accountable for my performance, I let myself and the team down by not holding them accountable. Let me tell you it was a hard lesson, a lesson I never forgot and a mistake I never repeated.

These days I help sales managers to grow via coaching and training and the number one issue or challenge that comes up in many of the sessions is how to achieve consistent sales performance from salespeople. In other words our old friend accountability.

Let’s face it salespeople are not the easiest group of people to manage. They don’t like to be held accountable particularly the underperformers who cause most of the headaches and consume most of a sales manager’s time.

In successful companies sales managers hold their salespeople accountable and have the respect of their salespeople. In this environment salespeople will go the extra mile to achieve and surpass their sales targets. They set a standard that others want to follow. Often the push for higher sales performance comes as much from peer pressure as sales management.

Where Do You Start?

It’s critical to create buy-in with your sales people. You can do this by outlining what measures and performance each of them will they be accountable for.

Ask yourself, what is this salesperson capable of achieving and is there anything preventing them from achieving it?

Is there any training in a specific area required? When discussing measures and performance let your salesperson know the reason for the sales budgets / targets by linking them back to the team or business goals. This will help them to understand the “why”.

Talk about incentives or awards. Talk about your accountability to the sales person such as the minimum days you will commit to working with them in the field. This demonstrates that accountability cuts both ways.

Ensure the measures and performance are clearly defined - there can be no gray areas. They should be realistic and achievable with a stretch or challenge component.

Some examples of measurement could include:

  • Number of daily prospecting calls
  • Number of daily calls to existing clients
  • Number of weekly face to face meetings
  • Closing ratio for proposals (weekly/monthly)
  • Pricing or rate criteria

It may be tempting to become emotionally involved when holding your sales people accountable but you need to remain focused or you will lose control of the situation. You are the sales manager so do what needs to be done even if it feels a little uncomfortable initially.

The bottom line is that you are responsible for sales. Remember what my first GM said to me? Maybe your boss feels the same way!!