3 Ways to Fix the Lack of Accountability that’s Killing Your Sales

By David Priemer

Smiling and nodding (followed by more smiling and nodding).

For most leaders, this is a common reaction when we gather our teams together to share news, insights, training, and perspective.

Not convinced? Think about what happens every time you rally your troops with a moving month-end speech about tenacity, focus, and execution. Or how about when you provide training on your latest products, positioning, or sales methodology, or call an all-hands meeting to share insights about the previous sales period’s performance.

I’m willing to bet that 99 percent of the time your team’s reaction consists of:

1. Plenty of smiling and nodding, followed by

2. people returning to their desks and doing pretty much what they were doing before (and getting the same results).

While the affirmative reaction may seem positive, it often masks a serious lack of accountability that can slowly (or often not so slowly) erode your sales operation. Sloppy execution in client meetings, poor articulation of your corporate pitch and value proposition, inaccurate or incomplete sales forecasts, and a general lack of operational rigor are all symptoms of poor accountability.

Most Sales leaders, however, know all about accountability. While our large quotas serve as a constant reminder of our highly transparent success metric, we’re often called to task in meetings with our executives or boards of directors to provide intimate details of our revenue operation (and nothing instills a greater sense of accountability than the fear of looking like an idiot in a board meeting!).

If you’re looking to supercharge the level of accountability in your organization, here are three helpful tactics:

1. Deputize your team

Help your team become more accountable by sharing your leadership responsibilities. For example, make one person on your team responsible for crunching the weekly sales stats, one person responsible for driving spiffs and promotions, one person responsible for social events, one person responsible for weekly education around customer/industry news and events, etc. The great thing about this tactic is not only does it improve your team’s level of accountability, intimacy with the business, and gives them a leadership window into how the business is run, but sharing the load also frees up more of your valuable time!

2. Promote regular “5 minute” practice

On my teams, this tactic is known as “5 minutes in heaven” and involves using the first 5 minutes of your regular meetings to test your team’s knowledge or things they’re expected to know. Product knowledge, objection handling, discovery questions, pricing strategy, and internal processes, are all areas you can explore with simple questions and discussion to raise the level of accountability on your team. This tactic is based on good old social pressure and people’s desire to not appear unprepared in front of their peers.

This shouldn’t be used as a punitive or surprise tactic though! This approach drives the most accountability when you do it consistently and let your team what you’ll be asking about in advance. By setting the expectation that you’ll be calling your team to task on their field readiness you’ll promote an ongoing sense of accountability and they’ll appreciate you helping them get better!

Tip: prepare a running list of questions in advance of your meetings so you always have content to use (and don’t worry about reusing content…repetition is key to this tactic!).

3. Write things down

When you crystalize topics, deliverables, and outcomes in writing, something magical happens; massive accountability! As GTD movement leader, David Allen, says “your mind is for having ideas, not holding them”. Yet despite our fast-paced lifestyles, human tendency to forget, and the abundance of technologies available for us to recall information, we simply don’t write things down enough.

Writing things down not only helps us remember details of the commitments we make to each other but also provides a medium to confirm understanding and ensure consistent follow-up. You don’t have to write everything down though, just the important things you want to hold your team accountable for. For example, suppose you had a team meeting where you resolved to generate a certain amount of new business pipeline in the next month. Rather than relying on smiling and nodding to hold your team accountable for the result, document the agreed-up follow-up activities, success metrics, and time frame in a forum everyone can see to create a consistent, unified view of interaction and follow-on commitment.

(Note: in a pinch, writing things down in an email is better than nothing but best to use a more pervasive and collaborative forum like Google docs, Evernote, or your CRM to ensure your note doesn’t end in email purgatory!).

Driving accountability and doing what we say we’ll do is the key to top notch execution and moving our businesses forward. The good news is, most of our people actually do want to live up to the commitments they smile a nod about and by putting these tactics into practice you’ll be well on your way!