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How to Improve Sales Rep Accountability in Your Organization

Norman Behar — CEO & Managing Director, Sales Readiness Group

Managing sales performance is arguably the most important skill for sales managers, and there are four steps critical to accomplishing this goal:

  1. Communicate and set expectations for sales teams.

  2. Monitor and manage specific behaviors.

  3. Monitor results.

  4. Provide regular feedback.

Unfortunately, managers tend to hyperfocus on the third step — results — without realizing that results are dependent on successful completion of the other three steps.

Holding Sales Reps Accountable Starts with Clear Expectations

Perhaps the most overlooked step is the first one, which is to communicate expectations clearly. Does your sales team really understand what you want them to do (behaviors), and what you want them to achieve (results)?

Sales managers often confuse what they think they have clearly communicated with what their sales reps have taken away from their discussion. This is because managers tend to use vague language or poorly drafted emails that are not specific enough to be understood and internalized by the recipient. As an example, a manager may send out an email saying, "We are tracking behind this quarter and need to take our game to the next level.”

Unfortunately, this statement is close to meaningless. At most, a sales rep will understand that results are not as good as they need to be and that reps need to work harder. While this may be true, the message lacks clarity and purpose. Additionally, it doesn’t address what specific behaviors are expected from each individual sales rep.

Communication Guidelines for Setting Clear Expectations

To avoid this type of confusion, managers should make sure that they clearly set sales goals and expectations by adhering to the following communication guidelines:

  • Personalize the communication and make sure it is realistic. The communication should be specific to the sales rep you are speaking with, not so general that it could apply to anyone.

  • State the desired results. Make sure your communication includes what you want your sales reps to achieve.

  • Include the behaviors required to produce these results. These are the specific actions that if performed well should lead to the desired result.

  • Define metrics for assessment, including the timeframe. It should be clear how you will measure performance and over what period of time.

  • Check for understanding. Have the sales reps recapped their understanding of your expectations?

  • Follow up in writing. Send out an email restating your communication, making sure it adheres to the rules above.

It is also important to remember that the mutual goal is the achievement of the desired results and to keep the message upbeat and encouraging. Returning to our previous sales expectations example, a manager would have a much better shot at helping his or her reps achieve quota with the following type of personalized communication.

To achieve your quarterly sales goal of $500,000 this quarter, you will need to close an additional $267,000 by the end of the quarter (December 31). To accomplish this goal, I would like you to conduct in-person meetings with at least five of the seven customers who are in the “agreement” stage of your sales pipeline by next Friday (December 12).

Given your history of success with customers (70% close rate of opportunities in “agreement” stage), this should allow you to exceed your goal if you can get these meetings set quickly. Please let me know if this makes sense to you and what steps you will take following this discussion.

[Pause, listen to response, and check for understanding.]

Great. Let’s plan on reconnecting next Monday (December 8) to review where you stand on appointments, discuss the specific goals for each meeting, and how I can help.

In a sales world hyperfocused on results, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of clear communication to set expectations. However, it is by clearly setting expectations that we can hold our sales reps accountable and proactively help them succeed.

Sales managers often confuse what they think they have clearly communicated with what their sales reps have taken away from their discussion.”

Norman Behar | CEO & Managing Director, Sales Readiness Group

Learn More

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Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
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