I received a call from a Sales Director recently who told me that his Sales Managers fail to hold their salespeople accountable. He said: “My Sales Managers are too soft on their salespeople 95% of the time and too hard on them 5% of the time.” He went on to explain that when attempting to hold their salespeople accountable, the Sales Managers “soft sell” the conversation.
They don’t firmly communicate the facts about the salespersons actions or the reality of the pending consequences. On the other hand, when the Sales Manager lets the poor performance go on too long, they allow their emotions to build up, eventually exploding and then losing control in front of the salesperson. Neither scenario is effective.
Fear has a nasty way of controlling even the most well intentioned Sales Managers. Although many may not want to admit it, fear of not being liked, rejection, or being talked about behind their backs by their sales team is a fate worth avoiding at all costs.
How does a Sales Manager effectively hold salespeople accountable? Here are five things you can do to hold your salespeople accountable for their actions and results.
1. Clearly Define Expectations
You cannot hold someone accountable unless they know the expectations. Defining expectations means the salesperson knows what it means to be successful or not in their role. When they know what’s expected of them, then you simply point to the expectations as the standard when they fail. This way, you remove the emotion from the situation and can stick to the facts. This removes the fear of “attacking” someone. Instead, it measures their performance against a pre-set standard. Therefore, create your job descriptions with well-defined expectations. Don’t be ambiguous. Communicate your expectations clearly during the hiring process.
2. Focus on the Issue
You may fear coming across as too harsh or overbearing when holding someone accountable. Here’s an easy tip: Be clear with the person and firm on the issue. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in an emotionally charged situation or feel you must defend your position. Just stick to the issue – failure to meet quota, lack of prospecting effort, poorly qualified pipeline, insufficient follow-up, etc. Don’t be afraid of what they might say – just focus on their activities. Help them redirect their behaviors toward more productive activities. Salespeople can be effect at getting you off track. Don’t allow it. Stick to the behaviors that need to be addressed.
3. Connect Behaviors with Outcomes
Sometimes, the salesperson may not know that they are engaged in unproductive activities. Help the salesperson see the “effect” of their actions. Good behaviors drive positive results, and bad behaviors drive negative ones. Your salespeople need you, their sales coach, to open their eyes to the impact their actions make on their performance. For example, if they continually fail to qualify buyers, then help them connect that to why they have low closing ratios. Fix the issue by reinforcing the qualifiers and the questions they need to ask prospects. Role play this over and over again until they gain competence and their behavior changes.
4. Control Personal Neediness
As a Sales Manager, you must control your impulse to be liked by your sales reps. You must have the conversation with yourself that keeps you focused on speaking truth, staying in control and managing your emotions. If you get negative feedback from your sales rep; let it go. Don’t let negative thoughts permeate your mind and erode your responsibility. Remember, you control your mind and emotions – not the other way around. When a sales rep pushes back, stand your ground. Communicate to them the violation and the consequences. Truth works, so stick to it.
5. Do Your Job
In the end, it’s your responsibility to achieve a sales quota through your sales team. If your salespeople are not meeting their individual quotas, it’s ultimately your fault – whether it was a bad hire, ineffective training, or poor management. The buck stops with you. If you inherited a poor performer, then you have to exercise your authority to either attempt to fix the situation through development or else terminate them. Again, either way, it’s your job.
Sales managers must hold their salespeople accountable. This is a reality of the job. Ideally, you’d like for them to do it themselves… absolving you of that unenviable responsibility. However, that’s not reality. You must hire the best salespeople you can afford, onboard them well, clearly define your expectations, coach and lead them appropriately, and then hold them accountable for their results. This drives their performance.
How you handle accountability conversations is entirely up to you. Hopefully, you’ll see that you can do it and garner even more respect when you do it well.