Sales Accountability Requires Commitment to a Sales Process

Sale ProcessIn CSO Insights Sales Management Optimization 2013 Key Trends Analysis, a report generated by surveying representatives from over 1,700 companies, respondents were asked to identify the type of sales process their company adopted. The survey revealed that the largest percentage of companies, 39.7%, fell into the Level 2, Informal Process category.

Level 2 – Informal Process

Your company exposes your salespeople to an informal sales process, which is often based on tribal wisdom from past selling efforts, and recommends its use. Actual adoption is neither monitored nor measured by sales management.

The report goes on to say “in Level 2 firms, the salespeople have been exposed to a loosely defined sales process so there is the potential for some common ground and language for how reps sell. In this type of sales culture, reps may make adjustments to the process unbeknownst to the managers. When this occurs, management’s ability to be effective coaches and mentors is reduced.

That last sentence says a lot. It identifies at least part of the reason that just a little over 50% of salespeople in Level 2, Informal Process companies meet their sales quota. Why? Because an informal process makes it nearly impossible to hold sales people accountable. Remember, in Level 2 companies, “actual adoption is neither monitored or measured by sales management.”

What is Accountability?

If you check the dictionary, you’ll find the definition of accountable is ‘responsible or answerable for some action.’

So if management isn’t holding someone accountable for a sales process, what are they holding him or her accountable for? Typically it’s a sales number, quota. And here we go again. A sales number can’t be managed. Sales are the output of a process. Output can’t be managed. The process can.

So go back to the definition of accountable. Notice the definition doesn’t say “responsibility for some number,” but some “ACTION.” Actions and process produce the number.

The Challenge

When there is no commitment to an action or a process, there can be no accountability. With no accountability, there is nothing left but blame. Management blames sales people for under-achieving. Salespeople blame the company for high quotas, lack of support or the burden of admin duties. It happens over and over again.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I applaud those organizations that have at least identified SOME process, though informal. That beats the chaos found in organizations with no process whatsoever. In those companies responding to CSO Insights survey, less than 45% of salespeople meet quota.

The Reality

The bottom line is, if you don’t take the time to formalize your sales process and hold people accountable for actions, not numbers, your sales organization will continue to underperform.

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