In sales, accountability matters. Accountability allows the Sales Manager to set Sales department goals, measure results, and reward top sales performers. Accountability also helps the Sales Manager make adjustments when necessary – to rework sales strategies and processes, and even change the roster of sales personnel.
So, while it seems obvious that accountability is a cornerstone of an effective sales program, why do so many Sales Managers fail to hold their sales staff accountable? And why do so many sales professionals have no idea what results are expected of them? The answers may surprise you (but the solutions may be simpler than you think).
Salesperson accountability often starts and ends with the Sales Manager. If the Sales Manager is doing his or her job well, the sales team knows how to do their jobs to achieve optimal results. This is why you – as the Sales Manager – must also be a coach:
Coaching to observe
To manage your sales team effectively, you must first be a keen observer. You must be involved with not only quotas, sales calls and deal closings, but also the on-the-job skills and processes each salesperson uses. By involving yourself in their total sales performance – successes and shortcomings – you can then coach for motivation, coach for results, coach to make adjustments, and coach to reward or discipline.
Coaching to motivate
Sometimes even the best sales performer needs encouragement. If you start to see a downward slide in sales from a top performer, the reason might be that the salesperson doesn’t feel challenged. The best coaches might skillfully address this with a change in role, territory or goals. In any event, keep your eyes open for opportunities to motivate.
Coaching for results
Successful coaches measure important elements of the game during the contest. This allows them to make the necessary in-game adjustments to yield better results. They also deconstruct and analyze what went wrong – or right – afterward. This enables them to make adjustments before the next game. Successful Sales Managers should do the same. Of course, it helps to make sure your sales staff knows what constitutes a “win”. Is it a closed deal? Sure (depending on the profitability of the deal, of course). Is it an introductory appointment? That’s probably part of it, too. Is it learning a lesson from a lost deal? Yes, this, too, can be a “win” that sets the stage for better bottom-line results in the future.
Coaching for results requires letting the sales professional know what is expected and how to achieve it. Goals need to be established, strategies set and processes defined. But coaching for results also requires making in-game adjustments when necessary.
Coaching to make in-game adjustments
You can’t make necessary adjustments during the game if you don’t know the score. That’s why goal setting and in-process sales benchmarks are so important. With these in place, you can move forward effectively and be more likely to reach your sales goals.
As you make adjustments during the sales process, you can take advantage of opportunities to teach and improve the skills of your sales team. In doing so, be sure to explain why changes are being made, not just how to make them. Consider this scenario:
You have a salesperson who can’t seem to close enough deals. When observed during the closing process, they seem perfectly adept, but their numbers are consistently low. By observing all facets of their “game,” however, you might learn that the problem isn’t in their closing skills, but, rather, in how they qualify prospects in the beginning. Making an adjustment at that stage – with training, motivation, or even delegation to another player – can lead to more “scores.”
Coaching to reward (or discipline)
By observing sales performance throughout the process – not just end results – you can also more effectively provide rewards, extra training, or discipline if necessary. It’s important to keep the salesperson informed as to his or her performance level throughout the sales reporting cycle. It’s completely fair to hold the salesperson accountable for meeting known and agreed-upon performance measures. It’s unfair, however, to blindside the salesperson with a bad report at the end of the year based on measures that were not understood.
The Bottom Line:
Sales management requires coaching: coaching to observe, to motivate, to get better results, to make adjustments and to reward or discipline as necessary. Sales coaching should be a continuous and positive process (not after-the-fact fault finding) aimed at creating opportunities, improving performance, and strengthening bottom line results.