If there’s one thing rarer than hens-teeth, it’s that thing where a salesperson owns 100% of their results.
The super helpful LinkedIn self-help guru’s talk about ‘owning the day’ with a set of SMART goals, but to the humble salesperson who’s already up to their neck in it, advice like that will have to wait until tomorrow.
In my opinion, most know the difference between being responsible and taking responsibility, yet many struggle to actually take it. Some of that resistance could well be down to the ‘social norm’ – we’re reminded daily that there’s stuff we can’t control and over time, we learn to get really good at giving up on things…
…like thinking a politician will actually answer the question they’re asked…
Sales management also plays a big part in a sales person’s ability to own their results. A dictatorial management style and a “I say, you do” approach, could create short-term action, but a long-term ‘wait to be told what to do next’ type culture.
Conversely, ‘collaborative’ sales managers who actively seek team suggestions and collective buy-in rather than signalling statements of intent, might get more engagement but potentially reduce activity and subsequently, reduced output.
Having spent over twenty years in B2B, my research has found that the best results are achieved when the team leader owns the responsibility but shares out the actions of achieving it equally with the team.
Here are just a handful of the many ways both parties can create responsibility and increase accountability within the sales team:
Sales Team Responsibilities
1. Please tell me you have a ‘To Do’ list otherwise this first tip is pointless! Sort your tasks into three specific areas: (1) Admin (2) Strategy and (3) Revenue. Sure, 1 & 2 are a fundamental part of the sales job, but allocating the correct amount of time spent on these is crucial. Let me be clearer, if you’re speeding more than 30% of your total time here, you’re doomed! Sucking eggs here, but priority must be given to activity which leads to (3) Revenue creation – defined as activity which will ultimately result in a sale – e.g. prospecting.
Make prospecting a daily activity. Even more so when things are going well and the pipeline is healthy, so that your tonality and body-language comes from a position of confidence rather than desperation. Follow up on actions quickly; do what you say you’ll do and you’ll become known by your customers as someone they can trust, rely on and someone they’ll introduce to others.
2.Take control of leading the customer along their buying process (your sales process) – it will deliver a more meaningful outcome for you both. Provided your solution demonstrates a perceived value for them (it better), they will understand why you’re doing this and be accepting of being shown the direction towards achieving their payback. In short, explain at the start what the options are at the end!
Start every scheduled call or meeting with a verbal agenda. Clarify why you’re meeting together and agree what you both expect to achieve. Share and justify your key objectives and ask them to share theirs. Insist on a mutual agreement to take action at the end – there is no greater sales crime than leaving a sales meeting without a call to action.
3.Spend more time with your existing clients – especially the ‘silent majority’, the ones who we naively believe will be customers forever. The ones who never complain or ask for help. If there’s one thing worse than not growing sales organically, it’s not being able to retain existing clients. For sure, you are going to lose some and on occasions, there’s not much you can do about it, but ignore the silent majority at your peril…your competitors won’t be!
It’s your responsibility to not allow your clients to leave for reasons that you CAN control. To do this, you must be close to them. You have to know the conversation that’s going on inside their head and to do that, you need their feedback. Stop reading this post and go ask them right now why they buy from you and what they think about you when they do! Priceless information that will help you keep them in your portfolio, not your competitors.
Sales Management Responsibilities
4. I get it, you’re incredibly busy dealing with ‘urgent’ requests from Senior Management, but could you find a way to get in front of your team a bit more and give them your undivided attention? Go find out exactly what you need to do to help them outsource or delegate some of their (1) Admin. It’s 2020, there’s a tonne of virtual business support a click away on the interweb. Your people can’t sell more product for you if they’re knee-deep in spreadsheets, so free up their time to focus on the really serious stuff called (3) Sales Revenue activity.
Set up regular 121 coaching sessions. Find out what’s going well, celebrate and recognise their successes and then ask how can you help them achieve more. Help them understand what they could be better at, reassure them that it’s OK to screw-up when trying provided a lesson is learned and build a plan of how to correct things. Document agreed actions and set a follow up date to review progress.
5. Sales people can be easily distracted. So, protect the team from noise like customer service issues, account management and office politics, which will all contribute towards diverting a sales person’s attention away from their responsibility of winning new business. One of the key roles of an effective sales manager is to manage their team away from these so-called external distractions. However, sometimes it’s the internal distractions that are harder to police.
Look out for and inquire about the personal well-being of your team. Their health; are they getting enough sleep and be aware of their feedback when you ask about their personal relationships. These internal distractions are of equal, if not greater importance and will have significant consequential impact if not diagnosed and supported early enough.
6. You’re the boss – hold the team accountable! Once their quarterly targets are set, a sales person has a huge amount of freedom within the day job and without a bit of ‘big brother’ to keep them honest, a heightened risk of under-achievement. It would be great if the entire sales team were totally self-accountable for their results, but that’s the stuff of dreams.
At the expense of sounding like some weird motivational guru, you really do need to create a goal-orientated sales culture. Set goals with them not for them. Show them how they achieve their goal so that they can see a logical path towards it. Explain what the benefits are for achievement and the consequences if not. Ask for their reaction, acceptance and ultimately their agreement to adopt the process. Then stand back and let them get on with it – wallop!
The concept of personal leadership and the ability we have to hold ourselves accountable is critical to how we spend our time and our outcomes in life. If you’re willing to take more responsibility and in doing so, can surround yourself with others who can help you, then you’re on the path towards some pretty stunning results!
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Matt Sykes is Founder of professional sales training and coaching business, Salescadence. Contact Matt on T: 01603 819136 E: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit salescadence.co.uk