Does the word accountability feel like a cuss word in your company?

When you think about the times you have heard about accountability it probably has been with the words like “the lack of” in front of it. It’s the sentence they use in the dictionary when defining accountability. “Public officials ​lacking ​accountability” It happens at home when we are trying to teach our kids after they have not done their chores. “You have to be accountable for your actions and the consequences that come with them.” Or at work “Salespeople are failing because there is no accountability!!” Why is accountability viewed so negatively? Because we only want to hold people accountable when they have failed.


Changing the paradigm of accountability.

The power of positive accountability became crystal clear to me several years ago. I was already a top end producer in my company but I was hungry to take it to another level. What I knew about myself(and of most salespeople) was that I had a tendency to be streaky. In a position that had several other responsibilities other than just sales it was easy to get caught up in the day to day and justify not getting out to make sales calls. There was also no direct oversight in my position, no one there asking if the sales calls had been made for the day. I decided if I was going to take it to another level that year that I needed to keep sales a focus in my schedule. The only way I was going to do that was by making a plan each week and making sure I was accountable to it. Here’s the key, being accountable to the right thing. The magic is not in being accountable to the end result, it’s being accountable to the daily and weekly tasks that lead to the end result. I asked my regional manager at the time to hold me accountable to sending him my projected call sheet for the week by Monday 9am. I tripled my new sales that year, became the top individual selling Territory Manager in the company and doubled the ongoing annual revenue of a territory that had been running there for 50 years. How did this happen? There are multiple factors we could talk about with goal setting, sales process mastery, marketing strategy, etc. But when I look back, the single biggest factor, the one that made all these other factors relevant, was the positive accountability to my weekly plan. I took what I learned and applied the same concept when I became a national sales manager a couple years later. The results were similar, we saw 3 of the 5 territories I oversaw have the biggest years in their history. It’s not rocket science, it’s purely focus.


How do you flip the paradigm of accountability in your company?

  1. Make the salesperson own the plan. They need to bring to the table what to focus on.
  2. Focus on the daily activity NOT the end result.
  3. Talk about the positive outcome you are striving for instead of focusing on negative consequences of failure.
  4. FOLLOW THROUGH- It doesn’t take yelling or write ups, but salespeople do need to know that you are paying attention. Twice in a year I missed my 9am deadline for my weekly plan, both times by 11am my manager was emailing me reminding me he hadn’t seen it yet. He wasn’t nasty, it was a simple nudge letting me know that he was paying attention and following through on his part of the agreement.


About the Author:  Rory is a Sales Management Professional with over 20 years of sales and management experience. He provides small businesses in the Great St. Louis Area with Fortune 500 level Sales Management on a part time basis and a part time cost.