Sales Accountability, Do or Die?

by | Mar 1, 2016

Inmates running the asylum?Sales Accountability

Salespeople doing what they do with no real accountability?

Salespeople are great at telling stories and that is precisely what makes them challenging to manage.  “What did you do today?”, asks the manager.  “I met with 5 awesome prospects today.  One is big enough to make my quote for the year!”, answers the salesperson.

The problem is that the 5 prospects were all in the same company, not five separate accounts and the big one is not planning to make any changes for two years.  But, the salesperson leaves that info out.  The manager hears what he or she wants to hear and moves on.

If you’ve “gotten serious” about this problem and started tracking the number of calls or meetings each salesperson has, then you know even that is not enough.  Dialing the phone 50 or 100 times in a day does not mean it was a productive day.

So what to do?

First, let’s address the elephant in the room…  

Your salespeople WILL tell you that whatever you ask them to do to report on their activity and/or their pipeline of future business is way too difficult and time consuming and that it’s keeping them from making more sales.  That’s just the fact.  They’ve got it good now, they can get away with anything!  Why would they want that to change?

And, you’re human.  You don’t want to be a “micromanager” and you want them to feel trusted and supported.  So, you’re going to have trouble looking them in the eye and saying they have to do it the way you want anyway.

But, the only alternatives are:

  • Live without the metrics you need.
  • Pay someone to spend hours per week collating information by talking with each salesperson, merging spreadsheets and generally doing it the hard way.

It’s very difficult to appreciate until you’ve experienced it first hand but, having instant access to actionable information on your sales funnel is essential to sustainable, profitable growth.

You already know what the little details are that make all the difference in your business.  Things that make one prospect great and another not so good.  Measure those things!  Once you have reliable measurement, you can incentivize them.

As an example of how powerful that “last mile” of measurement can be, let me tell you a story from my past…

In the energy business, there are 5 or so major oil companies in any given geographical region that are the “whales”.  They dominate the production of energy in the areas they’ve chosen to target.  So, it’s easy for salespeople and businesses to assume that when a sales opportunity opens up at Exxon/Mobil, it’s a HUGE one.

However, in the business I was part of, the service we offered was of particular value to companies investing in new drilling operations, as opposed to just producing from previously drilled wells.

So, prior to implementing detailed tracking of opportunities, I could get a call report that told me we had meetings with Exxon/Mobil, Shell Oil, BP, Chesapeake Energy and Newfield Exploration in a given week.

And our organization’s entire focus was on Exxon/Mobil, Shell and BP for obvious reasons.

However, once we began to require the salesperson to ask a prospect the number of wells they planned to drill in the area in the next 12 months, things shifted 180 degrees!  We realized that the need for and budget for our service was greatest within the smaller, independent oil companies that didn’t already have a bunch of wells in the area and therefore were planning to drill them!

So, the call report was prioritized by the number of wells planned for the year and goals were set for the salespeople to build their pipeline of prospects and opportunities within groups planning to drill at least a certain amount of wells.  And sales tripled in 1 year!

Best of all, we only had to ask the sales team to collect and enter one additional piece of information.

Bottom line – you’re probably misinterpreting the information being reported by your sales team currently and therefore, making bad decisions about hiring, training and market strategies.

The best approach is to get the sales team involved in constructing the approach to tracking and pipeline management.  Your top producing salespeople know what matters.  Let them help you build the system.  Just as importantly, let them help you select the CRM solution that you’ll use to capture, manage and report on all of this information.

None of this will change the fact that salespeople will push back on what they’ll call “micro-management”.  But, the best ones will understand it’s importance and value.  The squeakiest wheels are usually your worst reps.