For any growing company, the speed at which you hire means continuously tweaking your sales training playbook to find a balance between group sessions and one-on-one coaching. You need a sales training process that will equip each salesperson with a certain baseline of knowledge, and empower them to implement what they’ve learned.
One of the ways to ensure that salespeople can retain their knowledge and successfully move on from the training period is by teaching them to take ownership of their processes. This ownership, sometimes called sales accountability, is how sales managers prepare their teams for success by giving them all the information, tools, and training they need to succeed and meet quotas.
This piece will outline sales accountability as a means of teaching salespeople to take ownership of their processes, and give sales managers tips on how to create and encourage accountability within their teams and individual representatives.
What is sales accountability?
Sales accountability is how managers work with their sales teams to become aligned on goals and expectations. This helps individual representatives take ownership of their job responsibilities and be upfront and forthcoming about their sales performance and any possible shortcomings.
Accountability drives success because it ensures that salespeople stay on track, own their progress, and develop their skills. Although it is sometimes synonymous with penalties, sales accountability is meant to produce positive results that inspire and motivate employees to become independent and take control of their sales process.
How to Create and Encourage Sales Accountability
Creating accountability plans with your team can help representatives feel confident in their knowledge and inspire them to succeed in their day-to-day tasks. Considering the benefits that accountability can bring, let’s go over seven principles to consider that can create and encourage accountability within your sales teams.
1. Make goals transparent.
Transparency drives accountability. From their first day on the job, sales hires need to be informed of exactly what they’ll be responsible for learning during the next few months.
One way to accomplish this might be to design certifications to help reps master your sales process, and giving them a timeline to complete it. By the time they complete the certification, sales reps should be able to independently execute the sales process from start to finish.
You can also create a qualitative rubric to provide to salespeople, which outlines each step in your sales process and the corresponding skills they'll need to master. For example, in the discovery phase, reps are expected to establish themselves as trusted advisors.
Because new reps understand exactly what they’re being measured against, the responsibility to follow through on training criteria comes naturally. Being transparent with your expectations is the key to accountability.
In short, transparency is a key pillar of sales accountability because if reps don’t know what is expected of them, it can be difficult for them to perform to your expectations.
2. Enable salespeople to take ownership.
We all know the expression, “Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day, but teach them to fish and you’ll feed them for life.” This saying holds true for sales coaching as well. When managers and leaders simply tell their direct reports what to do instead of enabling reps to solve problems, they’re undercutting reps’ ability to take ownership of their processes.
To help reps take ownership and accountability for their tasks, consider doing role plays or having discussions about difficult sales calls instead of feeding them a script or set of instructions. Ask them questions and have them ask questions like “What went well?”, “What could have gone better?” or “How do you think you can improve in future conversations?” You’re helping reps assess their performance and showing them that they can develop their skills as a means of taking ownership and accountability.
Urging your sales reps to come to the answers themselves also helps them internalize the lessons they’ll need in the long run. Truly understanding the principles behind their actions will help them successfully handle future situations and hold themselves accountable.
3. Give your salespeople relevant data.
If you’re coaching a rep on how to convert prospects through product demonstrations, show them how their demo-to-customer conversion rates have changed over time. This helps establish your rep’s baseline performance and gives them a touchstone as they work on improving the metric. They should be tracking their own progress, too — performance reviews and one-on-ones should hold no surprises.
Having this data allows them to hold themselves accountable, right now and in the future. They know what their performance looks like, and they know that future performance should be better or consistently at the same level that it is now. If a rep looks at their metrics one month and realizes they’ve fallen short in relation to past performance, they can hold themselves accountable for working harder to achieve the same numbers.
4. Define measures of accountability.
With all this talk of taking accountability, it’s important to also define what accountability means to you and what it will mean to your reps.
For example, maybe accountability means you want reps to approach you when they’ve fallen short on a task rather than you coming to them. Or, maybe it means that you want salespeople to develop their own plans for how they’ll approach tasks and troubleshoot on their own before approaching you for assistance.
Defining measures of accountability ahead of time can also help assuage the fears that your reps may have of being placed on probation if they aren’t performing as expected. For example, continuing with the previous example, they’ll know that if they run into any roadblocks, they’re expected to analyze their performance and think critically about how to improve, rather than being subjected to a lecture from their manager.
5. Use different strategies to motivate your reps.
Since accountability often comes with increased independence, sales representatives may be nervous about being in charge of their day-to-day tasks. They may not feel like they can succeed without your guidance, so devising strategies to motivate them and show them that they can succeed is worth considering.
Gamifier is a tool you can use to engage your teams and motivate them to embark on their journey. You can create custom quests (displayed in the image below) for the metrics your team is meant to meet, like the target number of closed deals, and create leaderboards for reps to track their progress and be proud of their achievements.
Your entire team can also get a sense of how their achievements contribute to team performance, which can in turn motivate them to work harder and hold themselves accountable where they’re falling short.
6. Hold yourself accountable.
Just like you want your reps to hold themselves accountable, they also want you to hold yourself accountable. That means being upfront with reps about expectations and giving them the resources they need to meet your expectations and hold themselves accountable.
Most importantly, you need to hold yourself accountable for letting your reps hold themselves accountable. Yes, that’s a somewhat convoluted sentence, but it means this: give your representatives the space they need to take ownership of their processes. If you hover over them daily to make sure that they’re following the plans they laid out, you’re not giving them the opportunity to be independent and in charge of their own success. Let them catch their own mistakes and follow through with the plans they’ve made.
7. Follow through on the processes you’ve laid out.
Training and coaching require a feedback loop throughout a rep’s tenure at your company. Let them know once formal training is over that you’ll be meeting regularly to check in on progress.
In one-on-ones with your reps, look for them to take ownership of their activity. Ideally, your reps will be saying, “You coached me on X, and I changed my behavior in Y and Z situations using that coaching.”
Ask reps to explain an improvement in their numbers or a situation where they’ve needed to hold themselves accountable and apply changes to their process. This will also reinforce to your reps that they should be self-aware and intentional in their actions.
Use Accountability to Create a Culture of Success
Coaching salespeople to help them become the type of employees that are aware of their strengths and how they can improve is one of the most valuable things a sales manager can do for their company.
If you’re upfront about your expectations and give salespeople the means to succeed, you’ll likely find yourself managing a group of salespeople that hold themselves accountable for helping your business meet their goals and take ownership of their day-to-day processes.