In case you couldn’t make our Executive Breakfast Event, we’ve compiled our 5 proven strategies below to help you drive increased sales accountability in your organization.
Let’s start by defining sales accountability. It is “the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.” (businessdictionary.com)
Your success as a manager depends largely on your ability to hold your salespeople accountable. Let’s start by dissecting sales realities by reviewing each salesperson’s focus, activity, pipeline and results.
As managers, our natural tendency is to focus on results, and if the results aren’t there, we look at activity levels to uncover the issue or gap. While it’s fair to say that activity leads to results, there is much more information we need to look at to see the whole picture. Often, we are not looking at what’s going on behind the numbers.
1. Quantity of activity is important
Activity quality and quantity are both critically important. We surveyed over 100 people who registered for our event and asked them to note the quantity of client meetings.
Interestingly, 60.2% said they don’t have enough meetings. Hold your salespeople accountable to their goal by having them report on how many calls are made that day, that week and the following week to keep this top of mind.
2. Quality of activity is equally as important
In addition, 61.1% said they don’t have the skill level to have quality activity whether that’s an email, phone call, in-person meeting, proposal or other. Note that this is a sales management problem. Leverage observational coaching to combat this. Spend time in-market with your team to observe, model and assess their performance. If salespeople aren’t being coached and developed to do their best, the quality won’t be there.
It’s important to establish what quality looks like for your organization. Instilling quality and consistency is possible through ride-alongs and joining in on client meetings/phone calls. Since we can’t be everywhere every time, why not record sales meetings with client's permission? Or, Skype in when they make calls, and when they hang up, lead a coaching conversation. You’ll be able to provide balanced feedback after the interaction and move the needle on quality. The only way to coach to quality is by seeing or hearing them in action.
3. Pipeline review and management
Pipeline management is another critical component to driving accountability. Of the participants we surveyed, a third said their pipeline is healthy and two-thirds said their pipeline is either thin, false hope or congested.
Managing to pipeline becomes easy if you have a good CRM system and you keep it updated. The detail is easily viewed in an Excel table. Sales leaders can view recently added, largest deals, dated entries and the deals that will close soon.
Jennifer McMullan from TD Commercial Banking said it perfectly: “If it isn’t in the system, it doesn’t exist.” This creates accountability for the salesperson to properly record their opportunities.
You can also do this without CRM. One of our retail bank clients holds their sales team accountable to comment on their pipeline daily. Every morning meeting, their salespeople share the delta of the increase or decrease in their pipeline from the previous day. The sales leader knows exactly what is happening, and the pipeline report, which only comes out a week later, confirms the daily results. They are now seeing a significant increase in results because the sales team is thinking about pipeline every day.
4. Have a clear focus
We asked our registrants if their salespeople strategically focus on the right accounts (A accounts first, B accounts second, etc.) by rating their team on a scale of 1 to 10. About a third said they are pretty good at this and two-thirds said they are not where they need to be. The danger here is that quantity and quality of activity is there, yet to the wrong prospects.
To illustrate, your salesperson can have a high volume of reach-outs, meetings and proposals. They can also be of high quality, but if the opportunities are $5,000 on average and you need them to be $500,000, your salesperson has the wrong focus. It’s important to know who your target is - who should your salespeople be talking to?
Managing only against results is the same as driving a car by only looking through the rear-view mirror. This is why focus, activity and pipeline are critical to driving increased sales accountability.
5. Broaden your thinking
What factors do you take into account when thinking about individuals on your team and mapping out your sales accountability approach?
We are often asked about managing millennials. We believe it is the wrong question. We should be asking ourselves how to manage different people differently.
We often get too hung up on generations, and forget to pay attention to all the other factors such as their culture, age, personality, IQ, gender, experience and motivation.
Deepen your understanding by looking at their head, heart, hands and feet. How can you adapt your management approach to the individuals on your team?
Some people crave feedback, others don’t like it at all. What is the optimal frequency in providing them with feedback? What format is best for them: email, phone or in-person?
The key to increasing sales accountability is to be clear on your sales realities and uncover where you should start. It doesn’t always have to be focus, it could be pipeline. Try to figure out where you have the most leverage - is it observational coaching, is it consistent use of CRM? Tackling one piece at a time will allow you to make meaningful improvements in driving sales accountability in your organization.