Many a sales manager has asked themselves that very question over the years. They’ve worked hard to ensure that the AE knows their goal, and has been supplied with the resources and support to ensure that they have a good shot at success. They’ve even gone to the trouble of training them on how to present and how to ask meaningful questions that help them to identify customer needs. Still, the AE is struggling to hit their assigned target, struggling to build enough pipeline, and struggling to close enough business to achieve their revenue and margin targets. Many times, they will ask me, “What more do I have to do to get them to be accountable?” Great question, and one that begs a great answer. Here is my thinking about what a great sales manager needs to do to be able to hold their sales team accountable to delivering their results.
Do Your Part – Don’t send your sales team into battle unprepared. Hire great people, train them to be ready for selling and ensure they arrive for sales calls with all the tools and support they need and well prepared for success. Make sure they’ve done all of the preparation and research so that they can confidently excel in the sales meeting with the prospect. They have to have mastered your company’s story and the value proposition of their solutions. They have to be able to ask the right kind of questions to uncover the prospect’s true needs. Send your sales team into battle ready to win. To do less is to abdicate your duty.
Don’t Accept Defensiveness or Excuses – Trust that your team will do the right things in their day to day selling, but verify that they are doing it, don’t leave it to chance. Account Executives who are comfortably on track or ahead of their revenue goal will tolerate questions about how they’re winning and what their priorities are. Underperforming Account Executives will often claim that you’re micromanaging them if they’re struggling because they don’t want any scrutiny of their priorities and activities. Let me be clear, do NOT micromanage your sales people. If you have to micromanage your sales team to get them to the Promised Land, either you are the wrong manager, or they are the wrong sales team. However, in cases where an Account Executive is not delivering expected results, you must understand why the pipeline is weak, why their activity is not leading to results. This is not micromanagement. It is just engaged management. In the words of the great former president, Ronald Reagan, “Trust, but Verify.” Don’t let your sales team defend weak activity or bad choices. Remind your team that excuses are a lot of fun to share, but that they don’t lead to stronger results.
Focus Your Team On The Gap – I had the pleasure of working for a really brilliant leader years ago and he was a master of motivation. He started each year and each quarter with a clear review of the team goals and each individual’s personal performance goals. He also set expectations right from the get-go. He said, “We WILL achieve these team goals. You WILL achieve your individual goals. Period.” When the team occasionally fell behind the team goals, or when individuals fell behind on their own goals, he would remind everyone that failure was not an option, that the team and the company were counting on us to deliver the results we were committed to. We understood, thanks to his clear direction, that we had an obligation, a solemn responsibility to deliver the expected results. Having stated the obvious, he then began to challenge us to come up with strategies and tactics to recover from the “gap.” We knew we would receive no sympathy for tough economic conditions, inclement weather, dogs eating our homework, or any other circumstances beyond our control. He would remind us that everybody has the same circumstances, and some handle them better than others. If you keep your team focused on the gap, and on quickly and diligently making up the gap, they will reward you with greater accountability and consistency of results.
Sales Managers get paid to focus their team on the essential responsibilities that lead to consistent success. You get paid to help your team find their way to growing revenues and healthy margins. You cannot get to consistent results and success without a high level of professionalism and accountability on your sales team. You need to set a strong example through your conduct. You need to insist upon sending your team into battle armed and prepared for selling success. You need to ensure that you have clearly outlined the goals and expectations that will lead to success and manage your team so that they understand how to produce the required results.
Michael is a Business Coach and Executive Development Advisor in Minnesota. Michael works with leadership teams to help them to build sustainable cultures of success and high performance. Michael particularly enjoys helping Sales Managers and Sales Teams to focus on the right kind of priorities and activities that help them to build exceptionally strong customer relationships based on value. Over time, delivering extraordinary value to customers is a great differentiation strategy that leads to sales growth and profitability. If you’d like to receive a free copy of Michael’s 25 Sales Best Practices, leave a comment below and email Michael at email@example.com. Michael will ensure that you receive your free Best Practices document. Keep your eyes and ears tuned to our next series of articles on Sales Excellence for Account Executives.