hold sales team accountable

How to Hold Your Sales Team Accountable

Tinique Lenderman

Tinique Lenderman
Director, Sales Effectiveness Services, SPARXiQ

When the ideal number of opportunities aren’t moving through the sales pipeline quickly enough, there are plenty of potential reasons. One of the most common disconnects that can cause sales underperformance is an accountability gap. Holding people accountable is traditionally the biggest weakness of a sales organization. In fact, 46 percent of sales managers have trouble holding their sales team accountable.

When you hear the phrase “holding them accountable” in relation to a sales team, aggressive micromanaging often comes to mind. That’s not what we’re going to talk about in this article. Accountability involves letting your team know what’s expected of them.  

Sales leaders naturally have certain expectations of their sellers. Are your sellers aware of these expectations? If so, have they been coached to fulfill those expectations and reach goals along the way? Often, the answer is no.

Three common problems sales organizations experience are a lack of understanding what motivates their salespeople, no formal process in place to measure metrics, and managers not holding their team accountable. 

If this sounds familiar, there is an accountability problem. Here are some areas to focus on to get your sales force turned around and owning outcomes.

Coach to the Motivational Needs of Your Team

If you don’t know what motivates your team, you have no levers to pull with them. Understanding the personal and professional goals of each salesperson allows you to help them reach those goals. Most would think every salesperson is motivated by money, but that is not always the case. 

While money is a primary driver for many salespeople, some are intrinsically motivated, while others may be driven to perform for time off or recognition. They may want to buy a house and live across the country. They may want to go backpacking in the mountains. They may want to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. With this knowledge, sales managers can literally say “Let’s work on this deal because we really want to get you to that place of being recognized. 

Use the salesperson’s motivation as a lever for holding them accountable. If your salesperson wants to backpack across the country, they need the funds to do that. This is leverage you can use to help them meet their sales goals and be able to take that trip. 

It’s important that sales managers evolve into strong coaches that know how to motivate their sales reps and take measurements to hold them accountable. Without a clear understanding of motivation, holding sales reps accountable is a game of chance.

Measure Sales Activities and Review the Pipeline

Sales team accountability also requires organizational processes to measure performance beyond simply tracking revenueWhen there are no measures in place, you can’t coach your sellers. 

Measure call reports and calendars to gauge the quality and quantity of the pipeline at every stage. This translates performance results into the activities that might be causing them. And, fortunately, activities can be coached much more easily than results. 

To coach and motivate the right activities, implement a process with clear requirements for moving deals from one stage to the next. This provides the necessary visibility sales managers need to identify gaps.

hold sales team accountable; measure activities

If there are sales managers that don’t take responsibility and seek to blame others or external forces, there will be salespeople who follow suit. Accountability is about measuring behavior. If you don’t measure something, you can’t effectively manage it. When there’s a lack of accountability, it’s usually because leaders aren’t providing active coaching and they aren’t measuring the right things. You have to measure the right things to hold people accountable. It all ties together.  

Measuring what’s done allows you to better evaluate your sales force to embark on improvement and growth, which helps your sales leaders coach their team and hold them accountable. 

Hold Your Sales Team Accountable

Often the most feared, yet important part of a manager’s job is holding their reps accountable. When you see a lack of accountability, it’s typically because a manager has belief systems that don’t support it. This gap often trickles down to the front-line sellers.

Some common beliefs that managers have, which can be problematic in this area, include a desire to be liked by their sales reps and the idea that they don’t need to manage their sellers’ behaviors. Both can result in a situation where the manager takes little responsibility for outcomes and simultaneously doesn’t hold reps accountable.

Other symptoms of problematic beliefs include attributing underperformance to external factors (the economy, the competition, etc.). If managers readily attribute outcomes to anything other than a seller’s ability to be effective, a significant accountability gap can develop downstream for the reps. 

Ask your salespeople questions and focus on the pipeline metrics being measured. Managers can’t accept mediocrity, or the excuses sellers often give. Use the established processes your organization sets in place from measuring and reviewing the pipeline. Have clear, mutual expectations for required sales  activities on a daily and weekly basis, then measure the execution of those activities.

Salespeople want to know what’s expected of them and how they’re being measured. When their motivations are infused in meeting those goals, the team is sure to perform better.  

Evaluate Your Sales Force

Finding the root cause of an accountability gap isn’t always easy, but the results show up in a number of areas. It typically manifests itself in a few ways such as placing blame elsewhere, poor execution and a lack of results. A few reasons why an organization may lack accountability are not understanding sales motivation, not measuring the right activities, setting unclear expectations and the wrong managers’ beliefs. 

If necessary, consider evaluating your sales team to diagnose and discover the source of accountability gaps. An effective sales evaluation will examine the mindsets, motivations and competencies of the entire sales organization, including reps, managers and leadership. Evaluating your sales organization helps you understand what might be causing a lack of accountability in your sales culture.

We’re here to help. Explore our TalentGPS™ Evaluation solution if you interested in learning how to evaluate your existing sales team and discover opportunities for improvement. Feel free to contact us with any questions.