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 sales expectations set by management, while also being motivated and being held accountable. Sales accountability is a huge part of effective team management.
But what does this really mean? And how exactly do you go about implementing accountability effectively?
If you’re wondering how to hold your sales team accountable, we’ve got the answers you are looking for. In this article, we’ve broken down exactly what sales accountability is and the step-by-step action plan you can follow to enable your team to become more accountable.
What is Sales Accountability Exactly?
Sales accountability is both a “how” and “what”. It is how you, as a sales manager, work with your team to stay on the same page regarding expectations and sales goals. And, it is what allows reps to take ownership of their activities, efforts, and performance.
While it has mostly negative connotations, accountability is a lot more than holding people responsible when something goes wrong. 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.
After all, if they don’t feel responsible for their results, why would they be motivated to do anything at all?
When you have accountability across your team, your team works more effectively, sales goals are met, and everything runs more fluidly.
How To Start Holding Your Sales Team Accountable:
Oftentimes, what’s really lacking from a sales team’s ability to succeed is… accountability. Here is a step-by-step guide you can follow to better hold your sales team accountable and optimize success:
1. Set and Communicate Clear Expectations and Goals
To be accountable, salespeople need clear and consistent instruction on what exactly they are to be held accountable for. Consistency and clarity in sales 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 specific sales goals for your 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.
Alignment on the core goals 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. Have Specific Consequences and Rewards Based on Those Expectations
With clear expectations set and your team enabled to be successful, there should be no excuses for not reaching goals.
Training employees is expensive. To onboard a new rep, it can cost approximately three times their salary. But, 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 of 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.
But, if you want your team to be successful, you must 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 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
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.
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.
Keep in mind that in 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.
3. Track Performance and Sales Activity With Transparency
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 and activity 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, while also ensuring it is accessible out in the field. There are a variety of templates and software you can use to do this. (See below for more on this)
Tracking sales activity and performance is 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.
“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
On average, Americans spend over 5 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.
Aside from the competitiveness aspect in regards to your reps, from a managerial perspective, tracking all sales activity and performance numbers in real-time is critical. It will allow you to keep a finger on the pulse of your team’s sales efforts, enable you to make proactive tweaks where needed to optimize success, and maintain accountability across the team.
Keep in mind that, for this strategy to work, you also have to hold your reps accountable by ensuring they continue to properly track their activities and keep adequate notes from their customer interactions.
Without accurate data, you can’t properly gauge performance. If your reps are motivated to strive to meet expectations and have the tools they need to do this, this won’t be a problem.
4. Make Sure 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 successful, while encountering as few hurdles as possible along the way.
First, enable your team by providing them with as much clarity and training as possible, starting with their initial onboarding. Use training strategies like shadowing with your top salespeople, role-playing, or interactive training materials.
Also, provide your reps effective sales technology to help them 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, on task, and properly tracking activities.
Cadence management is also incredibly important for a sales team. Whether your salespeople can 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
5. Utilize Recurring Team Meetings to Discuss Wins and Losses
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.
6. Hold One-On-One Meetings With Your Reps
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. So, along with regular team meetings, hold one-on-one meetings with your reps also. 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 for time, 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
For effective sales coaching, being prepared for the one-on-one meetings with your reps also means utilizing the numbers and insights you’ve gleaned from the activities and notes that are being tracked. Before sitting down with a rep, you want to know what is currently in the pipeline, what deals they are working on, and what prospects or accounts they’ve been targeting. Then, you can have an informed conversation regarding their next steps with the prospects and strategize together on how to progress the deals effectively.
By offering your reps help on an individual basis, there’s less room for them to avoid responsibility when goals aren’t met because you’ve provided support and every tool and tip possible for them to succeed.
7. Complement Accountability With Motivation
One of the best enforcers of accountability is motivation. People need to feel inspired to remember what they are capable of accomplishing, even during tough times. Collect your team’s best stories and tell them in emotional, thought-provoking, exciting ways. Sales Kickoff events are great for this.
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
8. Hold Yourself Accountable
The last step is about taking 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
Top Templates to Use to Increase Sales Accountability
As we mentioned above in step #3, tracking your team’s sales activities and performance is critical to increasing sales accountability across your team. One way to do that is with an Excel spreadsheet.
There are a variety of different customizable Excel templates available, many of them at no cost, that you can use as a sales accountability plan template. In most cases, for increasing accountability, the best type of templates to use are going to revolve around activity tracking and/or sales goal tracking. Here are a couple of good examples:
Weekly Sales Activity Tracker Excel Template
This template from Smartsheet is a good place to start when it comes to activity tracking and holding your sales team accountable. You can use this template, broken down by week, to track weekly and monthly totals of all sales activities by rep. To access this free template, just create a login in Smartsheet.
A tracker like this will give you and your team an overall understanding of sales activities by measuring each separate piece of the sales process. By tracking activity, you can see how each part is impacting the big picture and where adjustments need to be made.
Daily Sales Goal Tracking Template
When reps can clearly visualize their sales goals it will help keep them accountable and focused on what they’re trying to achieve. This template from Template.net (scroll down to the Daily Sales Tracking Excel Format) will allow your reps to track their daily performance along with their daily sales goals. Then, you’ll be able to keep an eye on not only each rep’s daily performance but the daily performance of the overall team as well.
You can easily customize the headers with details for each rep, define their daily goals, and track performance. A template like this will also enable you to see which reps or sales territories may need more attention now to help increase sales and meet sales goals.
For more in-depth info on activity tracking, as well as more template examples, check out our article on sales activity tracking spreadsheets.
Utilize Software to Help Keep Your Team Accountable
Spreadsheets can be useful when you are wanting to start organizing sales data to become more transparent and hold your reps accountable. But, as your business and the amount of data grows, manually tracking it this way can become tedious and time-consuming. This is where sales software can help pick up the load.
There are a variety of sales software options you can use to increase sales accountability across your team. A few examples include:
Best for the entire sales team.
A CRM platform like the Hubspot Sales Hub will not only provide activity tracking and goal tracking capabilities but will also centralize all of your team’s customer and sales data in one easily accessible location. Hubspot will help you keep your team accountable as well as help them deepen customer relationships, close more deals, and manage the sales pipeline more effectively.
Another option in sales CRMs, Salesforce is a cloud-based CRM with a suite of tools available that can be used to customize the platform to fit the needs of your entire sales team. This software will help you and your team to keep everything organized, track activity and communications, optimize sales processes, and allow your reps to sell more efficiently. Utilize the AI-powered tools from Salesforce to increase both sales accountability and effectiveness.
Call Tracking Software:
Best for more inside sales-focused efforts.
For optimized note-taking and call tracking, check out the automated transcription platform Gong. Gong will automatically record, store, and analyze every sales conversation that your reps have, enabling your team to capitalize on every opportunity. The software can identify the most important parts of sales conversations, based on keywords, and even give you instantaneous AI-powered insights about any opportunities present.
The sales engagement platform from Outreach will provide your inside sales team with automated sales activity tracking (specifically call tracking), increased accountability, and optimized sales communication strategies. With Outreach, your reps can have more effective conversations through the use of multi-channel communications, built-in conversational intelligence, cadence management, and sales managers like yourself can utilize valuable live call coaching.
Field Sales Software:
Best for outside sales teams.
The mobile-first software from Map My Customers is purpose-built for your outside sales reps. With a comprehensive visual dashboard, the platform will also allow you to effectively manage your field sales team and elevate accountability. This platform provides the powerful automation, sales data organization, tracking, visualization, reporting, and mapping capabilities your team needs to supercharge their results, accessible directly from a mobile device or on a desktop.
Map My Customers can stand alone as your team’s comprehensive sales CRM and mapping software or it can also easily integrate with some of the other top CRMs.
Geopointe is a mapping add-on that transforms Salesforce CRM data geographically and provides a way to effectively map your team’s sales territories, track sales efforts, and help streamline sales processes. The mobile-friendly platform can also transform sales data into valuable geographically-based business insights. You can utilize advanced visualization and filtering capabilities to pinpoint trends and patterns that may have fallen through the cracks.
Start Taking Action on Holding Your Team Accountable to Elevate Success
You made it this far, so it’s clear you care a lot about the success of your team. By following the steps above, you’ll be able to increase sales accountability and optimize your team’s sales effectiveness. Embolden your salespeople and encourage them to work together as a team to be successful and hold each other accountable.
With clear goals, consequences, and rewards, your team will know exactly what they are aiming for. Be as transparent and consistent as possible and enable them with all the training, information, and tools necessary to succeed, while also keeping the lines of communication open. Make sure you and your team are also continuing to track activity to pinpoint successes as well as inefficiencies.
Start increasing accountability across your sales team today!