string_lightbulb_resizedYour sales team’s ability to drive revenue is directly correlated to your sales leaders’ ability to lead. Recent research published in Harvard Business Review by Steve W. Martin, found that 69% of salespeople who exceeded annual quota thought their sales manager was above average.

The survey of 400 sales leaders and more than 1,000 sales leader interviews showed that one of the most critical traits a sales leader can have is “Command Instinct.” (Side note: We love the name.) Martin writes, “Great sales leaders establish firm command over their team by exercising the power their title and position entail. For example, they hold their team to a higher level of accountability.”

Seventy-five percent of high performing sales managers consistently measure against quota, and hold their reps accountable. Accountability also translates to ownership. We write a lot about accountability as it relates to sales planning. Even some of the most veteran sales managers don’t have a way to build rep accountability in their sales processes, especially when it comes to sales planning.

A lack of accountability creates fire drills every quarter. As the end of the quarter nears, the pressure of the number hits high levels. Your sales team is one giant ball of stress. Sellers plagued with poor planning processes try to squeeze that revenue number out of the opportunities already in the pipeline. They lose perspective of their own territories scrambling at the last minute trying to close deals, desperate to pull out the required numbers at the end of the year. To get customers to move, they discount and lower their price trying to get deals through that aren’t baked. They lose margin and will be forced to discount even more the next time the customer wants to renew a deal.

That’s a fundamental problem.

As a sales leader, if you want to extend the accountability as it relates to sales planning, your salespeople need to view their territories as their own franchises. They need to see “their piece of dirt” as their own business unit and more importantly understand that they’re responsible for the unit’s profits.

Best-in-class sellers own their territories. They’re accountable for the territory’s revenue. Just like a franchisee, they know how to leverage the power of the company brand to drive revenue. This franchise mindset also drives your sellers to build pipeline at the territory level. If they see their territory as a business unit, they see the big picture. They’re focused on driving qualified pipeline within their territory.

When our clients come to us to improve their sales planning processes, often the problem lies with their focus. Most selling organizations spend 90% of their time operating around the opportunities, rather than driving pipeline at the territory level. Accountability can shift that statistic.

Martin writes, “[Effective managers establish] an environment where sales team members continually seek to prove themselves, thereby driving higher overall departmental performance…In essence, the command instinct is responsible for creating the peer-pressure and attention-seeking environment that eliminates complacency.”

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