It’s not enough to have great talent on your sales team. Even if your reps have serious selling skills, true success comes when everyone is aligned with the goals and expectations set by management while also being motivated and held accountable.
But what does it really mean for a salesperson to be accountable?
While it has mostly negative connotations, accountability is a lot more than holding people responsible when something goes wrong. In fact, as we’ll discuss a little later, you should use the word “accountability” openly and frequently to remind your sales team that they’ll also be recognized for their successes. By doing this, you can maybe get rid of the stigma altogether.
And after all, if they don’t feel responsible for their results, why would they be motivated to do anything at all?
Sales Accountability And You, The Manager
Perhaps the only job harder than being a sales rep is managing a team of them. Sales team management can often feel like a thankless and difficult job requiring a master’s degree in business, a PhD in psychoanalysis, and a combined twenty years of experience in private investigation and mind reading.
While the success of your team often becomes the focal point, this success is primarily determined by your ability to understand what motivates each individual to make a contribution.
That’s where accountability comes in. We know that more often than not, it’s rarely the Michael Scotts of the world that make up great sales leadership.
But there’s good news. If you’re wondering, “why is my sales team failing?” We’ve got answers and solutions. Here’s how to hold sales reps accountable in seven ways.
How To Keep Your Sales Team Accountable
Perhaps the only job harder than being an actual sales rep is managing a given team of salespeople. It can often feel like a thankless and difficult job requiring a master’s degrees in business, a PhD in psychoanalysis, and a combined twenty years of experience in private investigation and mind reading.
While the success of your team often becomes the focal point, this success is primarily determined by your ability to understand what motivates the individuals to make a contribution.
Oftentimes what’s really lacking from a sales team’s ability to succeed is… accountability. And we know that more often than not, it’s rarely the Michael Scotts of the world that make up great sales leadership.
So if you’re struggling to keep your team accountable, I have good news: We’ve got you covered. Without further ado, here are seven ways to better hold your sales team accountable for their goals.
1. Get Aligned On Expectations And Goals
In order to be accountable, salespeople need clear and consistent instruction on what they are to be held accountable for. Consistency and clarity in expectations are important for keeping up motivation and accountability across the sales team.
Establish your expectations individually and as a team to get clear alignment across the department. Set goals as a team to get buy-in and create a healthy sense of competition and camaraderie.
There might be a few growing pains as you implement growth and accountability processes, as demonstrated in Peter Stark’s “J-Curve of Accountability”. But as it shows, the benefits are well-worth getting alignment and understanding up-front.
Source: Peter Barron Stark Companies
Alignment is crucial for a sales team because every person plays a vital role in the success of the team. So set your team up for success by having a clear, consistent message of what’s expected of them and meet frequently to ensure alignment long-term.
“The first rule of goal achievement is having some in the first place. At the beginning of each reporting period, be sure to document and communicate the goals that the rep must achieve.”
– Eliot Burdett CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
2. Ensure You Enable Your Team to Be Successful
If you expect to get the most out of your team, it’s only fair for you to enable them to be able to with as few of hurdles as possible once they have the momentum and initiative to be successful.
Enable your team by providing them with as much clarity and training as possible. This can be accomplished by shadowing your top salespeople, role-playing, or providing training materials.
Use technology to help sales reps do more in less time and stay accountable to their clients and prospects.
Accountability features like auto check-ins can give visibility to sales managers while removing multiple unnecessary steps for salespeople. Tools like this are essential for keeping on-the-go salespeople accountable and on task.
Cadence management is also incredibly important for a sales team. Whether your salespeople are able to quickly and effectively follow up with customers after calls or meetings can make or break your sales process. You might consider relying on tools that can follow-up with customers via email after a meeting or remind your sales team to make contact with a prospect that they haven’t heard from in a specified time.
“Different salespeople are motivated in different ways. Some people are motivated by team-wide sales contests. Some are driven by quota achievement. Some are motivated by qualitative improvements. Some people are motivated by their impact on the organization. Some people are motivated by money.”
– Dan Tyre, HubSpot @dantyre
3. Have Clear Consequences and Rewards
With clear expectations set and your team enabled to be successful, there should be no excuses for not reaching a goal.
Training employees are expensive. In fact, some estimates it can cost as much as 33% of their salary to replace one.
Many companies fall victim to the sunk-cost fallacy, where they’re unwilling to fire an employee because they don’t want to lose the investment they’ve already made in training them. The problem is, your team is more inclined to engage in something called “social loafing” when they see a team member getting away with doing less.
To avoid complacency, it’s important to maintain a level of drive, and an understanding that meeting a sales goal isn’t optional. That’s not to say team members should have a looming fear termination, but if you’ve worked to develop and train an underperforming salesperson and they’re still consistently failing to meet expectations, you should know when to cut your losses.
“The real company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go.”
– Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix
But if you want your team to be successful, it’s important you recognize their successes along with their occasional shortcomings. When a person feels undervalued and overly criticized, they’re much less motivated to perform optimally. Salespeople that feel their efforts go unappreciated are prone to complacency.
The size of the reward should depend on the accomplishment and how regularly you plan to recognize your team. Weekly successes can easily be rewarded with lunches out or a free car wash. Monthly recognition should have bigger rewards like a parking spot, bonus, or even tickets to a local event.
Keep in mind that some cases, public recognition might deter a salesperson from success because they get embarrassed when put on the spot. If one recognition method isn’t working, consider reevaluating to try out another.
4. Make Sales Activity Transparent
Salespeople are oftentimes pretty competitive. In fact, according to a recent study, about 55% of salespeople actually prefer competition.
Leverage your team’s competitiveness by making sales numbers across the team completely transparent. You could do this by showcasing a leaderboard (and other performance graphs) on a screen prominently displayed in the office. Geckoboard is a great tool for setting up these kind of dashboards.
It’s a great way to improve sales team accountability. Because you know what’s even worse than being in last place? Publicly being in last place.
On average, people spend over four hours a day on their phone, so don’t forget to make sales numbers available on this important screen as well.
Put the numbers literally in their hands and faces so they can check it as soon as they wake up, between sales calls, or while they’re opening their paycheck.
Here’s a good example of a leaderboard from that’s sure to keep your sales transparent and your team accountable.
With sales performance completely transparent, you can add fuel to your team’s competitive fire by introducing public consequences and rewards for the lowest and best performers.
Work with your team to come up with realistic rewards for having the top sales numbers for the month or quarter. Or, you might also let the team come up with a light-hearted consequence for being at the bottom. A good example of this might be something like being a “coffee maid” for the week.
“If you can afford to buy a billboard in Times Square or a Ticker on CNN that scrolls your sales rep’s performance in real time, do you think they’d be more likely to pick up the phone? Most would.”
– Peter Caputa IV, CEO of Databox
5. Discuss Wins and Losses As A Team
If you want your team to feel accountable, you have to regularly provide feedback and openly recognize your team’s progress. Managing a sales team can’t be a “set and forget” relationship. For regular feedback to occur, progress has to be monitored and reviewed.
Hold regular team meetings where each team member shares their wins and their losses. Spend time on each to talk about and how they resolved or accomplished them. This provides the rest of the team with opportunities to learn from the mistakes of others, without having to make the mistake themselves.
“Encouraging your sales team to share their successes/strategy with their team members and have them answer questions regarding a recent win creates a high level of team spirit and healthy competition.”
– Jason Shuttleworth, Woodland Group Ltd
It’s incredibly important that your team feels they can come to you even when they mess up. If your sales team feels chastised for making mistakes, they might not come to you when there are problems, likely leading to bigger and more long-lasting problems down the road.
Ultimately, your team should learn that by talking about their mistakes openly, without having to fear retribution from management, they can better help themselves, the business, and your customers.
"... Make it safe for your employees to approach you with problems, as “shooting the messenger” will only encourage them to start hiding future problems. Instead, turn mistakes into lessons.”
– Mike, Breezeworks
6. Master Your One-On-One’s
Companies with high employee engagement were 21% more productive than those with lower engagement. When your salespeople feel listened to, they’re more likely to feel valued and accountable for their successes. Spend the time to find what motivates individual team members and provide assistance in overcoming their specific hangups.
Colin Nanka, a senior director at Salesforce wrote a great article on how to have productive one-on-ones. But if you’re in a crunch, the biggest takeaways are: be consistent, be present, and be prepared.
“This is valuable time that can be used to get to know your team members, understand their individual strengths and weaknesses, and give them guidance on how to advance their careers.”
– Colin Nanka, Senior Director at SalesForce
By offering them help on an individual basis, there’s less room for them to avoid responsibility when goals aren’t met because you’ve provided every tool and tip possible for them to succeed.
7. Hold Yourself Accountable
It’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
According to an accountability study found in Training, a staggering 91% of people rank accountability as one of the top development needs they’d like to see at their organization. That means that not only do you want your salespeople to be more accountable, they likely also want the same for you.
For sales teams to feel accountable themselves, it’s important for the sales manager to, in turn, publicly answer for his or her team. It should go without saying, but a sales team will refuse to be accountable if the sales manager consistently owns the successes but deflects the failures onto their sales team.
Show your salespeople that you’re a part of the team and willing to take responsibility when things go awry. Lend yourself as a resource and let them know you’re part of the team — sink or swim.
Ultimately, your team expects you to lead by example, which means defending the efforts of your team as well as celebrating their efforts publicly.
“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.”
– John Maxwell, Author/ Speaker
8. Complement Accountability With Motivation
After all the strategies are in place, then comes time for some good ol’ fashioned motivation.
People need to feel inspired to remember what they are capable of accomplishing. Collect your team’s best stories and tell them in emotional, thought-provoking, exciting ways.
Or if there’s been a stretch of time without a big win, tell stories about your competition and alter their strategy to meet your team’s unique circumstances. Or motivate your sales team with an inspiring pep talk from a movie, podcast, or a pump up playlist.
Whatever you choose, remember that it shouldn’t feel like a homework assignment or college lecture. It’s about instilling a sense of excitement about the future.
It’s also about knowing your team well. Do they respond to fiscal rewards, self-improvement, or altruistic motives? Keeping this in mind as you select your strategy is an important step.
“Be direct and ask them, “What would motivate you?” You may be surprised at their answers. And remember, not everyone feels motivated by the same things. Be open to their input and try different tactics.”
-- Sujan Patel, co-founder of Web Profits
You made it this far, so it’s clear you care a lot the success of your team. Always remember to listen to your team and be as transparent and consistent as possible and enable them with all the information and training necessary to succeed.
Embolden your salespeople and encourage them to work together as a team to be successful, hold weekly meetings to review progress, and remember to keep the line of communication open.
Good luck and happy selling!