By Allen Bessel, VP Client Solutions, Optimé International Inc.
Over my last blog posts, I have discussed how consistent coaching sessions, with smart conversations led by active listening, can build problem-solving capabilities that dramatically provide a return on your time investment. And that is certainly the best place to start. Today, I’d like to talk about how to add accountability to those coaching conversations.
A famous saying by management consulting guru, Peter Drucker goes ‘that which is measured, improves’ and most sales organizations globally live by that rule.
I’m fairly certain that there are few sales organizations in the world that don’t set and measure objectives for themselves and each team member. It’s a foundational business process for most companies. But, unless each team member thoroughly understands what they are accountable for and (I can’t emphasize this enough) AND is held to those accountabilities, there is no active way to drive and improve results. That failure can ripple across an organization quickly.
As a sales leader, have you ever had to ask yourself one of these questions?
Often in sales organizations, sales numbers set at the beginning of the year are monitored at the divisional level with the burden of performance laying on the division leader’s shoulder. She, or he, will have likely set goals for each team member, but, in many cases, doesn’t invest the time to coach them towards success, much less hold them accountable to achieve those goals. However, the highest performing sales leaders coach their reps and hold them individually accountable for their role in the organization’s results.
Accountability – real ownership for results – needs to be held by each of your team members. And they need to commit, on their own, to an action plan that will deliver those results. That part is straight-forward. Knowing how to coach, with the goal of understanding how each person on your team wants to be held accountable, can take a bit of work. You can never assume that the same method will work for any two individuals, so the best place to start, is by asking them. If you don’t have that conversation, you’ll be assuming that your team members want to be managed, motivated and held accountable in the same way that you would – which is based on your own experiences, skills and values. This is a common approach that leads to failure, both for the coach and the person being coached. By asking the right questions, and actively listening to the responses, you engage your reps in crafting their plan for how they will deliver results. I see this as the most effective method to building a team of people who embrace their accountabilities and earn your trust as you respect their individuality.
It starts with simply asking “How would you like to be held accountable for achieving your results each month?”. (Remember not to ask, “How are we going to achieve these results?”. “We’ implies that you are going to take an active role in how they deliver their results. True accountability isn’t shared. Accountability only works if individual contributors take personal ownership for their actions and results.)
The answers you get will likely vary. For example, one of your team members might prefer to check in with you frequently, say, via email, to update you on their progress, getting frequent feedback to keep them engaged and motivated. You might be interested in this approach if the rep is new and you aren’t yet 100% confident in their skills. For other team members, encouraging autonomy between coaching session, to push along on their own to reach their milestone goals, is the right approach. This works well with team members who you have coached well to be able to think critically and solve their own problems. Some may need a combination of both or something completely different. And there may be some that respond, “I don’t know”, which will include a different path of questioning to learn how they are motivated. Note that this response is sometimes a red flag for a rep that doesn’t want to be held accountable.
Whatever the approach to monitoring accountability, it’s important to have regular coaching sessions where expectations and results are discussed. Your team members each need to build their own plan for achieving their results and understand, without hesitation, that they alone are accountable for achieving what is expected of them. Coaching sessions should be formatted in such a way that enables each team member to speak to their numbers, where they stand in relation to their goals, and what they need to do to achieve them. In addition to increasing the likelihood of your team’s success, you can expect to also see improvements in engagement and motivation levels as your sales team feels more supported in their own development.
Check out www.optime.com to find more tools and tips to take your sales organization from good to outstanding.
Good luck and good selling!