Over the past nine months I’ve had conversations with over 350 sales leaders with varying sales leadership skills, ranging from managers of three reps all the way up to Chief Sales Officers of 500 person sales forces. I always ask them two questions:
- What are your top priorities for the year?
- What’s challenging about them?
You always know when you get to the heart of the matter because their tone of voice changes and they say something like, “Steve, what I really need to do is BLANK” or “If we can just do BLANK, then there is no doubt we’ll hit our number this year.”
And when you peel away all of the layers of the onion, you end up hearing two words over and over again:
Here are some direct quotes from sales leaders talking about their top challenges:
“Our entire sales kickoff was all about consistency. Me, the CEO, and the sales managers all deliver the value prop and tell customer stories about the same way. What we need to do is get all 100 of our sales reps doing our value proposition and telling stories the same way consistently. If we can do that, we’re going to kill 2016.”
“Everyone in sales leadership knows how badly we need a coaching culture, but there is no accountability. Unless the C-level execs start holding people accountable, nothing is going to change.”
“We’re hiring a lot of new sales reps this year. We also have new product launches in new markets. On top of that we’ve got a new sales methodology. It’s a triple whammy. Our challenge is how to consistently get all of the new people on-boarded and up to speed in the middle of so much change that even our veteran sales reps are struggling to keep up.”
The challenge of effective sales leadership always boils down to creating a culture of consistency and accountability.
- Consistency in getting sales reps doing the same activities the same way closes the gap between high and low performers. Sales leaders want to clone their top performers. Absent the science of cloning humans, driving consistency is our best answer.
- Consistency in onboarding new reps to full productivity
- Consistency in going after the right leads and target accounts
- Consistency in manager coaching
- Consistency in inspecting sales activity metrics
- Consistency in how reps plan and execute sales calls
- Consistency in company messaging
- Accountability is giving sales reps a clear understanding of expectations with equally clear rewards and consequences. Jill Ulvestad of VorsightBP calls this “task clarity.” Accountability is a willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own actions. Sales leaders are no longer OK with sales reps who close business but go off the reservation. Sales leaders need reps who hit their numbers consistently in a manner that shows accountability to the standards of the sales culture.
- Accountability in saying what you are going to do and doing what you say
- Accountability to peers, direct reports, your boss, and most importantly prospects and clients
My wife is the sole caretaker of our four children ages four months, two, four, and six. We have no nanny, no grandparent-who-lives-nearby, no house cleaning service, nada. Everyone (including me) can’t figure out how she does it. Her answer: routine and positive/negative consequences. The evening routine is dinner, then play outside, then dessert, then baths and teeth brushing, then pajamas and hair brushing, then a TV show, then books, followed by a story and prayer in bed. Neither the kids nor their parents deviate from the routine. If the kids do something to disrupt that routine like poking each other during dinner, they go to the naughty spot. When a child does something great like comb her own hair without our help, she gets praise. It’s simple: task clarity with positive and negative consequences. My wife has created a system of CONSISTENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY.
My friend, Monte Jones, President of On-Site Technologies, told me, “To maintain employment in our sales force you need to do three things:
- Hit your numbers
- Keep salesforce.com up to date
- Listen to one of your own sales calls per week, comment on it, and share it with your manager
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Monte Jones has created a system of CONSISTENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY. Everyone knows what is expected of them. Everyone knows what happens if they don’t do what’s expected. Everyone knows that if you go above and beyond, like helping one of your peers by listening to their calls, you will be praised. Monte knows that effective sales leadership skills are a craft which must be treated with respect and commitment. The result: most of their sales reps consistently hit quota with low turnover.
This is typically the part of a blog where I offer advice like, “Here are 7 things you can do to create consistency and accountability in your sales force.” But I’m not going to do that. You are. How do you create consistency and accountability in your sales force? What are some effective sales leadership tips you can share on creating a culture of consistency and accountability?