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Accountability in Sales: How to Cultivate Your Sales Culture

Sales performance improvement

richardsonsalestrainingSeptember 7, 2022Blog

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Creating a Culture of Accountability in Sales

Look closely at any enterprise level sales organization today and you’ll likely find a team struggling with a common set of issues. These issues all stem from your sales team’s culture of accountability.  

Common Issues Facing Sales Teams

Do these concerns sound familiar...

  • “There’s too much information and I can’t find the stuff I need when I need it.”
  • “My sales team can’t adapt quickly enough to new messaging and go-to-market initiatives.”
  • “It takes too long for our new sales hires to get up to speed and be productive.”
  • “Our sales process isn’t delivering an accurate forecast or predictable revenue.”

If the answer is yes, don’t worry.  You’re not alone…whether you’re a sales rep in the trenches, a sales leader managing a territory, or a CEO struggling to get the value you expected out of your sales investments, these are all very common roadblocks.

Over the last decade, I’ve had the benefit of working with companies like Mercury Interactive, HP Software, Informatica and the SAVO Group. We worked to resolve these issues and many others related to driving maximum efficiency and effectiveness from a direct or indirect sales organization.

Establishing a Culture of Accountability: Effectively Executing a Sales Enablement Initiative

When executing a sales enablement initiative, there are a number of focus areas that can make the difference between success and failure, namely:

  • Efficiency
  • Repeatability
  • Alignment
  • Measurement

While all of the above are critical to long-term success, establishing a measurement framework must be an immediate priority as it is key to creating a accountability in your sales culture. The American Management Association (2011) defines a “culture of accountability” as:  "A personal choice to rise above one's circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results—to See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It."  Clearly, a culture that values ownership and responsibility is essential for driving the alignment and clear expectations required to address the challenges highlighted earlier and for transforming your sales organization into consistent high performers.

So, how do you create a culture of accountability for sales enablement when most organizations struggle to define exactly what this term means and what the function is responsible for inside their company?  In some organizations, sales enablement equates to competitive intelligence, and in others it’s new hire sales training, and for some it’s a strategic function or discipline responsible for delivering the knowledge, process and tools necessary to maximize output from the field.

No matter which definition of sales enablement is right for your organization, the right metrics, clearly communicated, ensure alignment across the goals and priorities of stakeholders and help establish a common language and framework to measure progress against stated objectives.

The “holy grail” for sales enablement functions is defining and reporting against a set of metrics that directly correlate the execution of enablement initiatives with positive changes in field behavior and ultimately improvements in sales performance.  Without this, it’s all too easy for enablement to be relegated to a hygiene factor – when results are good, it’s got nothing to do with enablement; but when performance falters it’s suddenly because the sales reps weren’t trained, couldn’t deliver the right message, or didn’t understand how to follow the sales process.

How Measuring Impact Affects Accountability in Sales

As such, a primary goal for sales enablement functions should be transitioning from measuring “consumption” to measuring “IMPACT.”  While consumption is an important metric – it’s important to understand what content is being downloaded, viewed, discussed, and used by the field – you can’t stop there.  The more important question is whether you’re changing the behaviors required to deliver the desired improvements in sales performance, hence impact.

Impact can be measured by marrying data associated with enablement consumption to performance data typically tracked in CRM. This provides enablement organizations with the opportunity to drive a correlation between the execution of enablement programs and changes in sales performance. By understanding the correlation, organizations receive answers to questions like:

  • Did the reps that attended a cross-selling workshop display better results in cross-selling sales campaigns several months later vs. their peers that didn’t attend the program?
  • Did the latest batch of new hires that went through the new onboarding program ramp more quickly than their predecessors?

By measuring impact, marketing organizations can understand if the content they’re developing is being used by sales to drive results. Does it enable a high impact conversation with a prospect? Does it help a seller advance more quickly through a deal stage?  Does it satisfy an important customer buying criteria?  Does it clearly articulate solution capabilities, differentiation and value?

By providing metrics focused on sales performance, the enablement function increases its visibility at the executive level and can expect a better culture of accountability in return.  For example, at one organization I’ve worked for, the WW head of sales made it clear that any sales rep that didn’t complete the enablement pre-work required for sales kick-off would have their “ticket” to kick-off revoked. Not surprisingly, there was 100% compliance with pre-work completion that year. Accountability in sales has to be a two-way street.

Other Tips for Sales Enablement Success

In addition to developing the right criteria for measuring enablement impact in your organization, consider these additional approaches:

  • Build a framework and measurement structure to demonstrate the impact of enablement across both leading and lagging indicators and agree that is how constituents will hold themselves accountable on a quarterly basis.
  • Implement an infrastructure that can manage enablement on a consistent and scalable basis, worldwide.
  • Provide senior sales leadership with visibility into which sales teams and individuals are utilizing the enablement assets and programs. Additionally, offer insights into their performance regarding assessments designed to measure knowledge retention and application. This visibility will enable senior leadership to promote accountability not only within the sales management team but also at the individual field representative level.
  • Create a quarterly reporting process that ensures stakeholders stay aligned and progress against key objectives.

To support the focus on accountability, consider grounding your strategy in these fundamental principles:

  • Internally align the enablement function, the field marketing, and the product management organization
  • Align with the customer through the development of a buyer-oriented sales process
  • Drive consistency across roles, geographies and functions to improve re-use and ROI
  • Leverage technology to drive scale in a cost effective manner

In the world of enablement, the old adage “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” is just as true. So start defining your metrics now and building your culture of accountability!

About Daniel West:

Daniel West is the Executive Vice President, Strategy & Corporate Development at SAVO. In this role, Daniel is responsible for defining the growth path, programs and priorities for SAVO, including strategic partnerships, alliances and market expansion programs. With nine years of executive-level sales enablement experience, he comes to SAVO with a reputation as one of the industry’s thought leaders and innovators. He has built and managed the sales enablement function in three of the software industries’ most successful companies, as well as managed global strategic alliance programs and direct sales teams.

Originally from Sydney, Daniel has a BA in Journalism and a Master of Commerce in Marketing from the University of New South Wales

About SAVO Group:

Founded in 1999, SAVO is the leading provider of sales enablement solutions.  SAVO’s on-demand sales enablement platform maximizes the sales team’s ability to communicate value and differentiation in clear, consistent and compelling ways. Combining proven sales and marketing best practices with award-winning technology, SAVO addresses all aspects of the sales enablement challenge — spanning people, process, insight and technology.

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