Data Reveals Missing Accountability Traits in Sales Leaders


Statistics abound about the abysmal state of quota attainment by salespeople. We’ve all seen the numbers. Of ourse, the data varies based on whose report you read, but it is safe to say that the majority of reps don’t meet their sales quotas.

However, I would submit that it isn’t all the sales reps’ fault. Many aren’t coached well and don’t understand what is expected of them to produce satisfactory results. They simply aren’t adequately trained and developed in their craft.

Qualities of a Sales Leader

Sales leaders must take some of the blame. There are three main skill areas that indicate a sales leaders’ effectiveness at driving results through their team: Accountability, Motivating and Coaching. In fact, the best sales leaders spend 80% of their time on these three components.

Let’s Focus on Accountability

Review the chart below which identifies the Accountability traits that an ideal, effective sales leader should possess. The more of these traits a sales leader has, the more proficient they are. Unfortunately, most are lacking in many of these areas. The chart indicates the percentage of roughly 45,000 sales leaders that have that particular trait. (Data from Objective Management Group, January 2019)

These Three Traits are Lacking

Of those sale leaders profiled, more than 50% lacked:

  • Manages Behavior
  • Manages the Pipeline
  • Takes Responsibility (No Excuses)

No wonder so many sales reps don’t meet their quotas. Their sales leaders fail to do all the things to help sales reps focus on the right behaviors and activities.

Proficient Vs. Effective

While most sales leaders possess enough of the identified traits to be proficient sales leaders, it is the missing areas that always neutralize someone’s effectiveness. What does this all mean?

Let’s take each one separately.

  • Manages Behavior – In other words, instead of just looking at the sales numbers (which is an historic analysis) pay attention to the activities and behaviors that produce sales. Are salespeople doing enough prospecting? Are they asking for enough referrals? If only 30% of the 45,000 sales leaders that produced this data are managing behavior, then there is definitely room for improvement.

  • Manages the Pipeline – This is a close cousin to manages behavior. In my experience, many sales leaders believe they are managing the pipeline, but in reality they are just going through the motions, listening to salespeople drone on about the same old tired deals stuck in a pipeline. I have written several articles about managing the pipeline: Reduce the Fluffy Pipeline Syndrome, Sales Pipeline Review Meetings: Boring, Time Wasting and Useless, Is Your Pipeline a Pipe Dream? How to Tame Your Sales Pipeline, Six Simple Steps to Pipeline Predictability. Check them out.

  • Doesn’t Accept Excuses – There are some excuses that are obvious “The dog ate my homework”. But in sales, there are far too many veiled excuses. Some examples:
    • “I had to take care of an urgent customer matter.” (therefore, I could not prospect)
    • “He was a jerk. He wasn’t going to buy from us anyway.”
    • “My market is different.”
    • “We can’t compete with the other guys’ price.”
  • Sales leaders who also make excuses instead of taking full responsibility for outcomes tend to accept these and other similar excuses from their sales reps. If leaders are in the habit of managing behavior, as opposed to just outcomes, then it is far easier to dispel these and other excuses.

    By the way, excuses are easily refuted by simply saying “What are you going to do differently to insure this doesn’t happen again?”

More to Come

Stay tuned. I will focus on the data surrounding other critical competencies of world class sales leaders: Coaching and Motivating, in future posts.