Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Variability and the 14-Letter Dirty Word – Accountability

Tags: effective sales coaching, sales management, performance management, sales accountability

Several years ago, as part of our sales team evaluation, the skills, tendencies and effectiveness of the sales leadership team was also assessed.  The findings indicated that of the 224 leaders, 23% had at least 60% of the skills required to be an effective performance manger.  Of the 5 sales management skill sets required - coaching, motivating, recruiting, mentoring and performance management – this last one, performance management, is where the team “scored” the best. The skills/tendencies within the skill set are as follows:

  • Doesn’t accept mediocrity
  • Has no need for approval from sales people
  • Takes responsibility
  • Manages behavior
  • Asks Questions
  • Manages pipeline
  • Has beliefs that support accountability

Before digging into this topic further, just take a minute to examine these results: 

  • 224 sales leaders
  • 23% (51) with the minimum % of skills needed to be successful in their role
  • 67% (172) sales leaders below the minimum standards of effectiveness
  • Only 1 out of 4 managers, hired to do the job of managing performance and holding sales people accountable, had the skills to do so.

Assume for a minute that this might be your sales organization.  Now, you might be thinking, “I don’t have that many sales managers and so my numbers won’t look like this.”  You are right; they won’t look like this, but consider the possibility that maybe you didn’t get the 1 out of four!  How would you know?

  • Do your salespeople meet and exceed goals?
  • Do your salespeople consistently have the right volume of pipeline?
  • Do your salespeople have a tendency to have up and down weeks, months, quarters or years?
  • Do your salespeople blame the economy, the competition, the pricing, the lack of marketing, lack of support, too much paperwork for failure to prospect?
  • Have you spent a small fortune for CRM and yet still struggle with trusting the reliability of the pipeline report that you get?
  • Are people late to meetings or fail to show up at all, or leave early?
  • Does your sales manager take bullets for the failure of the sales team?

Performance Management – Definition (As defined by the University of California Berkley)

  • Performance management is an ongoing process of communication between a supervisor and an employee that occurs throughout the year, in support of accomplishing the strategic objectives of the organization. The communication process includes clarifying expectations, setting objectives, identifying goals, providing feedback and reviewing results.

Hogwash!  This is part of the definition and this might suit the academics, but in the real world of business, there is something missing!  “What’s missing?” you ask.

  • Identifying and implementing Rewards for success
  • Identifying and implementing Consequences for failure
  • Implementing disciplined approaches (structured activities) to correct failure to perform effort or execution.


The Berkley definition is kind of like the LifeLock commercial you see on TV commercials.  The bank is being robbed and customers ask the security guard if he is going to do something about the robbery.  His response is that he is not a security guard but rather a security monitor.  If all a manager does is communicates expectations, sets objectives, identifies goals, reviews results (“you are not hitting your goals”) and provides feedback (“You have to work harder”), then performance really isn’t managed; it’s just monitored.

As long had you have a sales team consisting of self-starters, self-managed, high figure-it-out people, then you are okay.  BUT, and this is a BIG BUT(T), you probably don’t have an entire team of people like this.  Short of having a team that just needs to be pointed in the right direction, an organization needs someone to manage performance and hold people accountable to individual commitments.

The organization needs someone that can reward people for success through compensation and recognition.  As important, if not more important, your performance management manager MUST be able to recognize early when people are off-track. This person must have implemented the right systems and process for early detection.  And the person must be strong enough to have fierce conversations with people when they are failing to perform.

Finally, there must be a process of disciplined and structured correction procedures so that those failing to execute have a chance to succeed.  PIPs are not the answer.  PIPs are to late to have a significant impact.  By the time you attempt to put someone on a PIP that horse has left the barn.

Additional Resources:


Sales Habits – Coaching Bad Habits Out of Sales People

Tags: effective sales coaching, sales management, sales habits



Let’s start with the premise that we all have at least 1 bad habit. As I stated in a previous article about habits, a bad habit is one that takes you away or keeps you from accomplishing your objectives and goals. We all have at least 1.

With that in mind, let’s assume that even your best sales people have a habit or two that, if identified and corrected, would help them sell more, be more productive or more effective.

Here are just a couple of bad habits that I can think of:

  • Making excuses
  • Letting the business control them
  • Talking too much
  • Not setting goals
  • Not listening to understand
  • Not letting the other person think about the answer to a question they’ve asked
  • Being impatient
  • Making bad priority choices

I’ve emailed some of my clients and friends and partners in selling and asked them to provide me a list of their top 3 to 5 bad habits of sales people. I’ll keep you posted on the information I get. Feel free to comment on this blog or this article on my LinkedIn.

What to do about bad habits? That is what we really need to be talking about here.

I don’t have a 12-step program like they have for rehab, but here is the progression I would follow:

  • Acknowledge the problem exists – e.g. talking too much
  • Identify the most common bad habits within the group and for each individual.
  • Discuss in a sales meeting the idea of bad habits and get feedback as to the fallout/outcome of having these habits.
  • Schedule an initial 15-minute meeting with each producer to discuss their particular worst bad habit

o   Why did they pick that one as the worse?

o   What is the impact on their productivity and effectiveness?

o   What is the outcome if they let it continue?

o   Is that the outcome they want? (This is better understood in a live role-play. If you would like to talk about this, text me at 513-226-3913, Subject: Habit role-play. I’ll call you.)

o   Do they perceive this as a have-to-fix or want-to-fix problem?

o   Assume it’s a have-to-fix problem – Schedule 5-minute conversations just to talk about what they did to eliminate the habit.   Ask about the outcome as a result of the change from a bad habit to a good habit.

o   Observe them in sales meetings, 1-on-1 coaching sessions, and on your joint calls. (Hint: you should already be doing all these things with your sales people)

  • 30 days after you have completed the 1-on-1 meetings, make this a topic in your sales meeting

o   Get everyone to identify the habit they worked on, what changes they made and the outcomes they are now realizing

o   Do something dramatic to “bury the habits”

  • Have them write their old bad habit on a piece of paper
  • Put it in a shoe box and actually bury it
  • Put them in a container where you can light a fire and burn them
  • Take the pieces of paper and rip them to shreds

o   Begin working on next habit

If you google “breaking bad habits,” you will find more than enough information on how this should be done. I do not recommend that you get into the discussion on how they should go about eliminating bad habits. Instead find some articles, print them out, provide them the link to the articles and let them figure it out. Remember, they decided it was a have-to-fix problem. Don’t let your bad habit of rescuing get in the way of letting them fix themselves.


Don't miss out on our Extraordinary Sales Manager Webinar Series! It's not too late to get involved - Part 2 is coming up June 29, 2015. SIGN UP TODAY for the "Hire Better Salespeople" FREE webinar and get ready to take your hiring to a whole new level!

Did you like today’s post? Read more of Tony Cole’s Blog HERE and don't forget to subscribe now so you don't miss any of ACTG's upcoming articles and events.  For more great tools and information on what we can do for your sales organization, visit our website at