Many people know about using accountability to help them reach specific milestones, such as weight loss, smoking cessation, and things like that. But people don’t talk about building accountability in sales to help you gain more clients or hit quota.
And that’s a shame because it helps. A lot!
The word accountability means different things to different people. You might think of it as part of ownership, goal-setting, or just work. I think of it as productivity.
With accountability, it’s almost a given that you are going to get more done. There’s always that voice in the back of your head saying that you need to keep going, keep trying, keep pushing because of whatever it is you’re holding yourself accountable to.
It’s the helping hand that is always there when you need that extra push.
The trick is to turn it into a positive—something that supports you—not a negative that haunts you.
Why You Need Accountability in Sales
Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, there will be parts you love and parts you’d love to avoid at all costs.
But most goals are multi-tiered, and they usually involve things that are difficult for us. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be goals; they’d just be things we do anyway.
In sales, for example, you might love connecting with new people and developing relationships. But tracking data in your CRM makes you cringe every time. However, you also know that improvement starts with tracking. That makes you want to do it consistently and thoroughly, so you set KPIs around it.
That’s where accountability in sales comes in. Because it’s a struggle, setting the KPI or goal might not be enough. However, setting a trap will push you to be more consistent until, eventually, it will become a habit.
Your Personality Affects the Kind of Accountability You Need
If you’ve taken a personality assessment, DISC or others, you probably have a good idea of what you’re naturally inclined towards and what you struggle with. If you haven’t, self-awareness is key. You might think you know where you struggle, but an assessment can highlight things about yourself that you would never have thought about.
DISC is especially helpful because it focuses on sales. So if you’re looking at accountability to help you in your sales role, the DISC personality assessment is the way to go.
However, if you’re not in a position to take a paid assessment right now, there are two things you can think about that will give you a good clue as to where your strengths and challenges are.
- Do you focus more on tasks or people?
- Do you need facts before taking on a task, or do you lead with your gut?
Those are the two main aspects of DISC, and those alone can tell you a lot about where you might struggle. It also might give you an idea of what kind of accountability will work best for you in and out of sales.
Also, yes, if you’re going to take an assessment, it needs to be a paid one. Free assessments only tell you the most basic, surface-level aspects of your personality. Plus, an assessment coach or expert can go over the results with you, adding to the depth and amount of insight you can gain about your strengths/challenges, your communication and selling style, and how to adapt it in sales conversations.
How to Start Building Accountability in Sales
Once you know where you’re going to have to push yourself a little harder in your sales role, you can build trackable KPIs and accountability around them. (If you’re not sure how to set KPIs, I go deeper into that in my book, Selling From Scratch.)
But what should accountability look like? You can’t just assume that holding yourself to a goal is going to be enough. It would be great if we all had that kind of mental fortitude, but unfortunately, most of us don’t.
There are many ways to hold yourself accountable, and which one(s) you choose is largely up to your personality. Here are the most common types of accountability:
This is one of the most well-known methods around, and it is essentially how most leaders manage accountability in sales. Your paycheck, commission, and bonuses could all be considered rewards.
Here’s the thing, though. Believe it or not, many people aren’t actually that motivated by money.
While we all need it, there are other rewards that some of us find more important or rewarding than money, especially if it means we have to do things we don’t like doing. On top of that, our paychecks are still part of our job, so it doesn’t feel like a reward as much as it is just getting what we deserve for our work.
If that’s the case, find other levers.
Add an expensive item to your wishlist and set a goal for when you can buy it. Treat yourself to a fancy dinner at the end of a successful month. Only allow yourself a sweet treat or drink when you hit all of your KPIs at the end of a week.
Find that perfect reward that will motivate you to keep doing the things you need to do.
Make it expensive to lose
Some people, including myself, are more fueled by loss than gain. This is the idea that you will do things you hate to avoid things you hate more.
There are probably some causes that you don’t see value in and would never choose to support. What if you have to fund that cause if you don’t accomplish your goals?
You would probably get it knocked out, right?
I have used stickK as a way to bet against my procrastination and complacency, and it’s been very helpful.
The important thing to remember is to pick a cause you are passionately and fundamentally against. If you don’t have strong feelings about it, you won’t be as motivated not to support it.
And it has to be a dollar amount that wouldn’t bankrupt you or put you on the streets, but it would make you squirm a lot if you lost it.
Finally, make sure you’re only holding yourself accountable, in sales and otherwise, for things you control. This holds true no matter what technique you’re using.
You can’t bet on results when outside influences are involved. But you can bet on taking the actions you need to get the results you’re striving for.
These are little habits or intentional things that help us do the things we struggle with.
I used to do some of my work in a coffee shop/coworking space. Every morning I would go in, order a cup of coffee, and sit down to start journaling. I trapped myself by not touching my coffee until I finished journaling.
Needless to say, I wanted to drink my coffee while it was hot, so I was incredibly consistent with my journaling.
I knew someone who would hang his jump rope on his coat rack. His goal was to do 40 minutes of jumping rope each day. Every time he walked through the door, he would jump rope before entering or leaving.
The jump rope hung on his coat, so he’d have to move it to hang his coat up. Might as well knock out 5 minutes. And vice versa for grabbing his coat to leave.
For accountability in sales, it might be, “I won’t take a break until I’ve finished 20 reach-outs.”
There are tons of habits we have that we can build traps around. Just think of it as, “before I can do this, I have to do this.”
This is probably one of the most popular forms of accountability out there, and it’s honestly my favorite.
It’s the one I suggest the most because most people really don’t like letting others down. Plus, it has the potential to help someone else, not just yourself.
An accountability partner is someone who holds you accountable for your goals and activities.
Typically, you do the same for them. The reciprocation part is important because it makes it a higher priority for you both. If they don’t have a goal that you’re holding them accountable to, they might not be as invested in your goals.
It also needs to be something you meet or talk about regularly. The more often you can connect with them, the stronger that relationship—and the likelihood of hitting your goals—will be.
Accountability in sales means working together with someone who wants to see you succeed as much as you want to see them succeed.
Eventually, the idea of getting onto a call and having to tell them that you didn’t hit your KPIs is enough to push you harder to do it. This has to come from a place of genuine concern from both parties.
Your friend who loves to bust your chops when you do something wrong is not the best person to hold you accountable. You need someone who is going to question when you don’t perform, not beat you down. It’s about support and motivation, not berating or teasing.
In a way, all of these accountability methods incorporate deadlines.
Every goal should have a time component. Otherwise, you’re just kind of floating with no real finish line in sight.
But deadlines alone can be enough for you to feel a sense of accountability.
Most people tend to get more done when they’re feeling the pressure of a looming deadline. That might be the only accountability measure you need to accomplish your goals.
There are a couple of ways to incorporate deadlines to make us even more productive. We can do them in a forward-looking planning method or handle it as more of an ad hoc or spontaneous method.
For instance, if you’re dealing with writer’s block, make a goal to write 1000 words in an hour. Things like that.
Also, your quota alone might be enough to achieve a successful level of accountability in sales, depending on your personal motivators.
Just remember to make it a realistic and achievable deadline. If you’re following the SMART goals method, you should be doing that anyway.
Be SMART In Your Sales Accountability
When it comes to accountability, the SMART method is key.
Don’t expect it to work if you’re making goals that are impossible to achieve. You’re doing yourself a huge disservice and putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.
We have enough stress to deal with, and this goal-hitting method is there to support your journey towards improvement, not beat you down. Best of all, when you build it into your process or sales methodology, it becomes even easier!
When you’ve found what works for you, having accountability in sales will help make your job both easier and more enjoyable.