Creating a Culture of Accountability in Sales

As a Sales Leader you have to create a culture of accountability – everyone across the organization has to be accountable for their own performance and results.

What is Accountability?  “It is a force that provides rewards or consequences for actions. A leader imposes the consequences for failing to meet obligations. Also a leader offers rewards for meeting obligations.” (Mike Figliuolo –  link).

And it’s important to not conflate that with Responsibility in business – it is “a sphere of duty or obligation assigned to a person by the nature of that person’s position, function, or work. It is a set of obligations relating to the job.”  (Vincent E. Barry –  link).  Also, “Responsibility means that people are able to be trusted when they are not watched.” (Mike Figliuolo –  link)

Failure to have accountability will cause problems such as losing your A-Players or setting a bad example. As Mike Figliuolo correctly states, accountability improves unsupervised behaviors.

As a leader, you are accountable and so is your team.

How a VP of Sales Can Create Accountability (with an emphasis on Self-Accountability):

  • Communicate the Importance of Accountability
    • It’s important to the company’s success
    • It’s equally important to each individual to be successful – this is a key point for everyone to understand that it benefits them directly to be accountable and to lead their daily work with full accountability for their performance
  • Ensure Every Team Member Knows Who They are Accountable To
    • Make it clear that each person is accountable to more than their own manager – they are also accountable to:
      • Team/peers
      • Customers
      • Shareholders
      • and Themselves too
  • Set Clear Goals / Expectations
    • Sales Quota – work on this together and agree
    • Other Sales Goals related to attaining key KPIs
      • for SDRs: # Dials per week & Call Effectiveness goals, Demos:Meetings, AE-to-SDR Scoring/NPS, etc.
      • for AEs: can also add Demos per week, Opportunities Created, etc.
  • Help the Team – provide resources to your team to deliver on their goals
    • As a leader, it is on you to help your team to deliver on their goals
    • You need to lead them, coach, help and provide the resources and support for them
  • Communicate to your people that they must hold themselves accountable
    • They need to do the right thing because they should know that it is the right thing
  • Self-Accountability to Sales Manager
    • each rep to report on their own progress towards sales goal weekly (in 1-on-1 meetings)
  • Weekly – Self-Accountability to the Team 
    • Weekly – each rep to do weekly “self-reporting” in Team Meetings
    • Weekly – my sales activities
    • Weekly Pipeline
      • How much pipeline I added – # and $
      • What I progressed through the pipeline – # and $
      • What I qualified out – explain loss reasons
    • Weekly – my forecast – list of deals and their stages
  • Monthly & Quarterly – Self-Accountability to the Team
  • Have each rep develop their own Individual Development Plan (IDP)
    • Have accountability for their own development
  • Finally – you must hold people accountable
    • People need to know where they stand
    • There should be no surprises
    • Consequences need to be imposed
      • Feeedback
      • Communicate performance status regularly
        • should be no surpises
      • PIP – Performance Improvement Plan
      • Reallocation of responsibilities
      • Termination

Here is what every effective Sales Executive / Leader communicates to their team regarding performance and execution:

  • everyone in sales “owns it” – from the CRO / VP of Sales to the new junior SDR (Sales Development Rep)
  • you take responsibility for everything in your work – you’re in charge and you own your sales number
  • if you fail to execute you take responsibility for it and if you miss your number then you own it
  • a real “sales professional” has no problem admitting when they are wrong and taking the blame
  • no excuses, no blaming, and no finger pointing – no excuses, just solutions
  • if you are behind your target, don’t sugar-coat it – just tell your sales manager and ask for help
  • lean into your problems, don’t delay the solution – and report it to your manager immediately and don’t delay getting help
  • develop the confidence to say when you’ve failed at something or made a mistake – others will respect you for that

Every true professional (starting with sales but actually everyone in a company or in any team sport) has to be accountable – for your own actions, your own behavior, your own attitude, your own work.

Some of the most successful business leaders or athletes in sports or even coaches take full responsibility and own the accountability for their actions.  Look at any press conference with Tom Brady or Bill Belichick where they openly state that they didn’t do a good enough job and they need to focus on doing a better job themselves. They don’t point fingers and don’t make excuses – they “own it”.  If they own it (on the big stage and in the public forum in front of millions of people) then so can all of us on our own arena. Coach John Wooden said “The professional or the team that goes out and does their best is the winner“.  It’s key to do your best in your work and if you have not done your best then you need to own up to it and be accountable and responsible for it.  That is the only way that you can learn from it and do better next time.