Accountability What are you really asking of your people

November 14, 2011
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Does this sound familiar?

“I want my people to be accountable.”

“I want our people to be MORE accountable.”

“Our main issue this year is ‘accountability.’”

Accountability is the No. 1 recurring theme throughout sales leadership in the United States. Sales leaders want their salespeople to be more accountable for their actions, activity, numbers and (of course) sales.

And it’s totally wrong, totally backward, totally insulting and totally anti-sales.

How’s that for an opinion?

REALITY: No salesperson wants to be accountable. They got into sales so they wouldn’t have to be accountable.

But sales leadership, even in their current “CYA” situation, has no concept of “field reality.” Rather, they implement some form of accountability through CRM (customer relationship management) software and then wonder why no one uses it, much less keeps it up to date.

CRM is an advanced form of database that helps salespeople keep track of customers, and on the surface, it seems like a great tool. But it’s complex, cumbersome and requires additional work.

Leadership, who bought CRM for the wrong reason, expects all salespeople to document everything. But salespeople don’t.

CRM programs are the most-purchased, least-used software in the history of the computer. Why?

The reality is: CRM doesn’t help salespeople make sales.

Which brings me to today’s subject: accountability versus responsibility.

Sales leaders who want their people to be accountable are passing off their leadership duties to someone else and then blaming them for failure. Wrong approach.

Leadership and accountability are at the opposite ends of the spectrum — especially the sales spectrum.

Think about it this way: You’re accountable to me. (Not good.) I’m responsible for you. (Much better.) And responsibility has a much more inclusive meaning.

As a leader, you’re responsible for your actions, responsible for your people, responsible for your attitude, responsible for your leadership skills — and certainly responsible for your results.

As a leader, the only person you’re accountable to is yourself.

And if you pass on the same strategy and philosophy to your people, that they are responsible for their actions, responsible for their customers, responsible for their attitude, responsible for their sales skills and responsible for their results, then your acceptance and respect as a leader will ensure positive growth.

If a salesperson takes responsibility for his or her knowledge, pipeline, customers, sales, income and success, your job as a leader shifts from a paranoid accountability manager to an encouraging, supportive leader.

What’s the difference?

  • Accountability sends the wrong message. It implies forced leadership and micro-managing. It has at its base “you are” and “you must” as a process. It’s “childish.”

  • Responsibility sends the right message. It’s individualized and team-oriented. It’s “I am” and “I will” as a process. It’s “adult.”

  • If I’m accountable, it’s less likely that I’ll ever do my best or be my best. Rather, I’ll do what’s necessary, and report at the deadline — or just after.


    “I’m responsible” has a chance to include character building and pride in one’s achievement and work.

  • “I’m accountable” lowers morale and creates disdain on the part of salespeople.

Here is the most telling difference:

“You’re accountable” indicates a corporate directive and an order.

“I’m responsible” indicates a personal decision and a success opportunity.

As negative as accountability is, there is one place it fits: You are accountable to yourself. You face the accountability mirror of truth every morning and every evening — in your bathroom. You are accountable to yourself for your attitude, your actions and your results.

And in the end, accountability will still be “on message” and erroneously rule the sales airwaves, even though what I have written is truth and reason.

What’s your take on responsibility versus accountability? Post your views at facebook.com/jeffreygitomer, or tweet them @gitomer.

Jeffrey Gitomer’s website, www.gitomer.com, has more information about training and seminars, or e-mail him personally at salesman@gitomer.com

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