Let’s begin by looking at “Performance Accountability.” Top Sales Performers hold themselves accountable at every level. They strive to be masters of their customer-management strategies, to be fluent in their products, capabilities and the value messages that connect with their customer’s. They work closely with peers, managers and support resources, working together in pursuit of shared goals. But above all, they hold themselves accountable for their performance, and they accept no excuses.
Top Sales Performers are first and foremost accountable to their customer. They know that sustained top performance requires more than closing deals. They follow through with their customer, applying the lessons and experiences they have learned from other successful customer engagements. They understand that their future success is predicated on ensuring their customer’s success.
Top Sales Performers also hold themselves accountable to the standards and expectations set by their sales manager (SM). They recognize that the SM relies on timely and accurate business updates to manage the business. They deliver on forecast commitments and maintain current and accurate funnel data. They are prepared for business reviews. They pride themselves on being a professional salesperson, and they demand continuous coaching from their SM to leverage their full potential.
In turn, SMs must be accountable for the performance of their team and their contribution to the sales organization. By insisting on the regular and natural use of the customer-management strategies, SMs become the filter that ensures forecast accuracy and funnel confidence. If SMs avoid accountability for numbers, activity or performance, that attitude will permeate their teams.
Ultimately, it is the sales leader who must hold his or her team accountable for results because the sales leader is accountable to the CEO. Accountability is a critical element in a sales-performance culture. There is a difference between accountability and performance. Performance is the result. Accountability, from the sales professional to the sales leader, ensures that the discipline, activity and focus are all in place.
Performance accountability is a behavior and driver of top sales performance. Accountability defines the Sales Professional and distinguishes them from the stereotypical “Sales Rep”. How they connect with customers, work together and manage to their performance goals further separates the sales professional and is essential to their world-class performance.
Now, Professional Accountability: There are three areas of performance accountability that distinguish the Sales Professional from a Sales Rep. The fourth is a personal attribute.
Customer: The Sales Professional is focused on and holds themselves accountable for the success of their customer. They recognize that their current and long term success is only possible when their customers achieve their goals. This is true with new client acquisition as the first piece of business with a customer is the foundation for future revenue and opportunities. Customer success promotes an invitation to create additional value for their customer’s through cross or upsell opportunities, access to other business units and potentially leveraging their network for referral business.
The Sales Rep is more concerned with the size of their commission on the deal and how they can maximize its impact on their compensation plan then they are with their customers. Sales Reps drive transactions, provoke customers and close hard with the customer viewed as the opposition and competition. The sales rep chases deals without regard for fulfillment, customer outcomes or the value of relationships.
Teamwork: The Sales Professional knows and holds themselves accountable to interact, compete and win as a team. Sales Professionals enlist and follow the proven customer management strategies that have been successful in their organization. They are able to quickly and accurately describe various customer situations through the use of common language, frameworks, strategies and tactics used by their selling team and the knowledge resources they rely on.
The Sales Rep functions autonomously creating their own customer approaches and individual messages as they figure it out one deal at a time. They horde customer information and intelligence sharing only within their private network. They balk at any requirements to comply with common processes, document customer strategies and refuse to share any more than the minimum. They value their independence and will sell they way they want.
Performance: The Sales Professional knows and holds themselves accountable to the activities, metrics and performance expectations of their role. They hold themselves accountable to the results they deliver and are keen to overachieve the performance standards. They strategize for success and prioritize their activities to achieve the results they want. Performance accountability extends beyond the results, including accountability to activity and productivity metrics that are proven to drive results.
The Sales Rep is more concerned with the perception of how they are doing, especially if the performance isn’t there. Excuses flow about a bad economy or losing because of price when expectations are not met. A Sales Rep will inflate perceptions of the competitor’s advantage or of procurement getting involved to blur lost opportunities and obfuscate bad selling.
Personal Attribute: Underlying these elements is the personal accountability of the Sales Professional for the advancement and development of their career. They are always building new skills, improving their business awareness and expanding their knowledge base. They aspire to achieve something greater than a number and thrive in performance-oriented cultures. They seek out coaching and are dedicated to a strategy of continuous improvement. They focus on their career and the development of their capabilities while the Sales Rep is forever chasing the next promotion, job or performance improvement plan, avoiding accountability at every turn.
World-class athletes know precisely what it takes to achieve and sustain top performance. Championship teams know they can’t just show up and expect to win. Every day, they practice the fundamentals and skills of their sport. They tirelessly monitor their performance metrics and prepare winning game strategies. World-class athletes hold themselves to a higher level of accountability, professionalism and performance than everyone else. World-class Sales Performers do the same.