Sales success requires less blame, more clarity
Frustrated by a lack of sales from your sales team? Logan Wedgwood explains why “accountability”, when it comes to sales, is meaningless. Now, more than ever, New Zealand’s businesses need sales. However, there is a real problem that has been intensified due to the current economic pressure businesses are facing. That problem is business owners […]
Frustrated by a lack of sales from your sales team? Logan Wedgwood explains why “accountability”, when it comes to sales, is meaningless.
Now, more than ever, New Zealand’s businesses need sales. However, there is a real problem that has been intensified due to the current economic pressure businesses are facing.
That problem is business owners and managers feel a need to ‘crack the whip’ or ‘hold people to account’ or ‘drive their people to get results’.
This is wrong.
Accountability, as it is commonly thought of, shouldn’t be a thing. Instead, better conversations within a business need to take place to allow people to take ownership.
I firmly believe that when people sign a job description and turn up to work on day one, they do so with the full intent of doing the best job they can. However, over time it can slip into a ‘grey area’. Where it is less clear what success looks like, people lose enthusiasm and start showing up just to check their email.
Ownership vs accountability – what’s the difference?
Ownership involves the opportunity to opt in, whereas accountability is delegated down.
Ideally everybody in a business wants to be there and wants to hit the numbers they have chosen. However, the success and effectiveness of salespeople needs to be a collaborative effort.
No more “here’s your number and you will be held accountable for this”. Or “you’re off track. Get it together. Do better”. Does anyone recognise this manager?
Good salespeople want to succeed. They know what numbers they need to hit and they take ownership of the numbers and their success. If you have to hold your salespeople to account, you have either the wrong salespeople or are the wrong leader.
Turning it around
Management need to work with their teams collaboratively to establish what success looks like, how they play their part in it and what numbers will show they’re on track. They problem-solve outcomes together and work as a team to hit targets.
I like to use a Critical Number/Measure → Outcome → Traffic light → Action matrix as a system to highlight where underperformance exists and explore how to improve outcomes week by week. This is driven by the salesperson and features numbers they have suggested and taken ownership of, and actions that have been mutually agreed.
All salespeople can do is focus on what they can control and influence. The results will come.
If they don’t take ownership of their numbers, don’t push for results and don’t achieve the performance levels agreed, again you have the wrong salespeople. Or you left them in the grey area for too long.
Grey areas occur because the right kinds of conversations aren’t taking place. Too many sales conversations are spent shifting blame, making excuses, or worse – many aren’t happening at all.
A good sales conversation is one without blame, where actions that lead to outcomes are discussed and agreed on collaboratively.
Numbers are reported, and they are what they are. Ultimately they don’t matter. All that matters is what action can be taken to influence the number.
It is the leader’s role to provide clarity. Whether that is the CEO, the business owner or the sales manager – the highest reporting level needs to provide clarity.
This means removing ambiguity, providing a clear vision of what success looks like, and detailing how activities and numbers contribute to this success.
Logan Wedgwood (MBA, MinstD.) is CEO of strategy execution advisory firm, Advisory.Works. www.advisory.works