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Accountability – The 14-Letter Dirty Word for Many Sales Organizations

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Apr 21, 2023

Accountability in an organization is kind of like the old country song by Joe Diffie: Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die). In the song Joe sings the following:

Well I ain't afraid of dying, it's the thought of being dead

I wanna go on being me once my eulogy's been read

Don't spread my ashes out to sea, don't lay me down to rest

You can put my mind at ease if you fill my last request

Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

Lord I wanna go to Heaven, but I don't wanna go tonight

Fill my boots up with sand, put a stiff drink in my hand

Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

It’s the line: “Lord I wanna go to Heaven, but I don’t wanna go tonight” that most closely reflects the sentiment expressed in the title: Accountability – the 14 letter dirty word. Time and time again when we conduct a pre-training Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis, the findings come back to us and the client highlighting the level of Responsibility and Accountability that either exists or is absent.

We are currently talking with a prospect, and one of the biggest problems they want to correct / solve is the lack of accountability. I’ve been here before and have had this discussion. What I inform every CEO and President is that, despite your desire to fix this problem, you will suffer collateral damage. They ask, ‘what do you mean’?

I tell them as soon as you attempt to change your culture and implement systems, processes and coaching to improve accountability and responsibility, you will have push back. It will come from two places:  

1.     Your most successful and or tenured people

2.     Your least successful most tenured people

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When this happens what is your appetite for the pushback and perhaps people exiting the building of their own free will or because you recognize that they lack the willingness or ability to accept responsibility for their outcomes.

THUS the 14 letter dirty word.  Everyone wants it, but no one really wants to do what is required to make it happen!

Let’s look under the hood of Accountability Competencies for the organization findings in Figure 1.

Most organizations and sales managers think of accountability as ‘micro-managing’. As you can see from the graphic, there is a lot that a manager needs to bring to the table to be effective at Setting Standards and Accountability. As to micro-managing, Jim Collins has been quoted as saying “There is no such thing as 'micro-managing.' There is either managing or not managing”.

Here is the kicker, when you hire the right people, you shouldn’t have to manage them.  Again, a quote from Jim Collins. Get the right people and tell them during the interview process that:

  1. You expect them to set high standards for themselves that far exceed what the company expects of them.
  2.  You expect them to manage themselves to those standards.
  3. The organization will be collecting data on sales effort and effectiveness to help them determine if they are on track to achieve those high standards.
  4. Finally, they must allow, agree to coaching from the sales manager when the data indicates that they are either not going to hit their standards or are doing the activity, but the results aren’t there.

Failure to do this will lead to failure for every new hire you make.

Failure to do this with your current team will lead to continued outcomes that you get today.

I’ve discussed in earlier articles about the importance of coaching. What I can tell you with 100% certainty is this: Without executing the accountability step, your coaching will not be effective.

If this resonates with you and your company, and you’d like an hour of consult with one of our Sales Development Experts, reach out: Contact Us

Performance management IS all about setting higher standards for success, holding people accountable to the effort and execution to hitting those standards and changing the definition of ‘good’ in an organization.

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Topics: Sales Management Training, sales managed environment, effective sales management, consistent sales results


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    Anthony Cole Training Group has been working with financial firms for close to 30 years helping them become more effective in their markets and closing their sales opportunity gap.  ACTG has mastered the art of using science-based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss our weekly sales management blog insights from our team of expert contributors.


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