Managers and executives who fail to accept 100% accountability for their teams are at the root of all hiring, coaching, and retention program failures. Here’s how to do it right.
I hear things like, “C’mon Keith, 100%. Don’t managers get a little bit of a break here? How can we be fully accountable when I’m already stretched thin and still expected to achieve higher sales goals with fewer resources. Doesn’t the salesperson have some role and responsibility in this? After all it’s their career and it’s what they were hired to do. I mean, what if…”
No, I didn’t cut this person off. I actually heard them through completely. That’s why we’re going to list all of the ‘what if’s’ (a.k.a excuses) that I’ve heard managers react with when I challenged them with adopting this principle. Here are all the reasons I’ve heard as to why managers feel they should not be fully responsible for their salespeople.
- I just got promoted and inherited my sales team. I didn’t hire these people.
- We don’t do background checks. Sometimes, you just don’t have all the information to make the best hiring decision.
- Some of these veteran salespeople have been here forever. You can’t change them, they’re too set in their ways.
- We don’t have time for a sales training and coaching program. We need people producing and out in the field.
- It was HR’s fault. Our/my sales training is great.
- That’s normal in my industry. Turnover is just something we just have to deal with. We just accept it as part of our hiring practices.
- That responsibility was not part of my job description.
- I don’t have the authority to make hiring and firing decisions.
- We can’t offer competitive packages like other companies can. It’s straight commission. No salary or benefits. So, as you can imagine, we attract only a certain type of person and not always the high end salesperson. We do our best to play the hand we’re dealt.
- We don’t have an evaluation process.
- There’s just this one person who no matter how hard I try I just can’t get along with. They probably shouldn’t be here anyway. They just make my job tougher.
- Actually, I agree with you, Keith. But here’s the thing. The problem is really this; it’s my boss. He’s the real bottleneck to making any positive changes.
- The salespeople are really independent contractors. So if they need help, they should get help on their own. Besides, they should be able to manage themselves.
- They fail, then they really weren’t cut out for this position.
- We’ve given them training. Two weeks of training which covers all of our product line. Soft skill development? No.
- Needed help? Then they should have come to us. We would have helped them. That’s their responsibility. How can I read their mind if they’re having a problem.
- My sales team is awesome. It’s the other divisions we have to interact and work closely with that are bringing our numbers down.
- I need quick studies. If they don’t pick it up fast, then chances are this position isn’t for them. I don’t have time to baby sit them. That’s our qualification process; the strong survive.
- I worked with that guy for three weeks of solid, on the job training. And still nothing.
- You can’t make any headway in this company. They’re opposed to doing that sort of thing.
- The President and her board already feel that things are going well and this is not a priority. So why change? And if that’s how they feel, what can I do?
- I told them to call the other salespeople for help.
- It’s hard to find good sales talent out there now. Our market is super competitive and this is what I have to work with.
Interestingly, in each of these excuses, there is one common denominator that travels down the road called, YOU DRIVE! Here’s what I’ve responded with when hearing these or what the client had to come to terms doing.
“Ultimately, you have a choice, yes?”
Taking Full Ownership or Playing the Helpless, Powerless Victim?
What managers lack in accountability is made up for in their excuses or justifications for performance. The secret is, the real power comes in taking full ownership. The alternative is to play the helpless, powerless victim. And this role is filled coming from a place of weakness, devoid of power and from which no new possibilities can ever grow. For you’ve given up your greatest power; the power of choice.
These excuses are a declaration for these managers, as if they are etched in the stone writings of their predecessors that must never be challenged nor questioned. And each one of these justifications has the power of hands on experience and the evidence behind it to support its truth. But, still, where does that leave any of these managers? They’re still dealing with the same problem or stuck with a team of under-performers. At the end of the day, these managers have surrendered. They’ve given up. They’ve lost. The instant you begin to buy into a justification, you’ve started to surrender your personal power.
Okay, Now Here’s the Plan…
Then comes the next reaction I hear. “Okay, Keith, so now I’m a believer. Here’s another situation. Lets say we have constructed the most comprehensive recruiting and retention program you’ve ever seen. We have checklists, assessments and personality profiles. We’re doing background checks, speaking with prior employers and even their co-workers.
Once the preliminary work is done, we have each new candidate drive-along with one of our salespeople for one full day so they get to experience the job first hand and in the trenches. Each candidate is interviewed by a minimum of twelve people from their new colleagues to the senior leaders over the course of fifteen separate meetings.
Prior to the official hire, we have them spend three days working in the office, performing their job functions. Then, upon their official hire, we implement at your suggestion, a Thirty Day New Hire Orientation Program which details the daily regimented training and coaching they will be receiving, as well as the measurable results they would be responsible for at the end of the first thirty days on the job. Finally, we team them up with a sales coach to support them on a weekly basis. Now, even with an infallible system like this, in spite of everything, they don’t cut it. Are you telling me it’s still my fault?”
My response to this, “Has this happened yet to you?”
That’s about the time the conversation ends. Because any company that has these safeguards and measurable like these entrenched in their recruiting and retention process has reduced their risk of failure one hundred fold if not more, mathematically speaking. That is, the companies I’ve worked with who have implemented a program like the one I’ve described have seen their numbers shrink from a whopping 78% attrition rate of salespeople within the first year to less than 3%.
If you’re not making a choice to live responsibly, then you’re making a story.
Photo credit: Keith Nerdin