Sales Team Motivation by Accountability – A Sales Manager’s Guide to Holding Salespeople Accountable

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 aid you in having difficult conversations focused on accountability.

Clearly Define Expectations – You cannot hold someone accountable unless they know and understand the expectations by which they will be measured. Defining expectations means the salesperson knows what it means to be successful or not. 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.

Focus on the Issue – You may be fearful of coming across as too harsh or overbearing. Here’s an easy tips: Be easy on the person but 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 and how you can help them redirect their actions toward more productive means.

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 results. Your salespeople need their sales coach to open their perceptions to the impact their actions make on their performance as well as the teams. For example, If they continually fail to qualify buyers, then help them connect that to why they have low closing ratios and unproductive sales calls.

Control Personal Neediness – As a Sales Manager, you must control your impulse to be liked. Stay conscious and “mentally present”. You must have that conversation with yourself that keeps you focused on speaking truth, staying in control and managing your emotions. Don’t let negative thoughts permeate your mind and erode your responsibility to maintain performance within your sales team. Remember, you control your mind – not the other way around.

Do Your Job – In the end, it’s your job responsibility to meet a sales quota. 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 terminate them. Again, either way, it’s your job.

Salespeople must be held accountable for their results. This is a fact of Sales Management. Ideally, you’d like for them to do it themselves… absolving you of that unenviable responsibility. In a perfect world, that would be an option. However, that’s not reality. What helps is hiring good salespeople with good products and services to sell. Also, managing and leading them well is an asset. In the end, how you handle that difficult conversation is entirely up to you. Hopefully, you’ll see that you can do it and can garner even more respect when you do it well.