Accountability, Performance, Behavior & Machinery Sales Effectiveness

Ed Marsh | Aug 23, 2023

Machinery Sales Effectiveness Requires Rigor and Accountability

Introduction to SignalsFromTheOP

Guide to Episode

  1. Many capital equipment companies fail to insist on accountability in their sales function
  2. Machinery sales effectiveness is built on consistent execution - which requires accountability
  3. Accountability ties to behavior, and unlike performance which can be a reflection of skills, behavior is a choice
  4. Lack of accountability in sales is disrespectful to every employee of a company that depends on a flow of revenue to ensure job security

Transcript follows:

Hello. I’m Ed Marsh and I appreciate you stopping by to watch this episode of Signals from the OP. In the military an OP, or observation post, is a couple of folks far enough out in front to detect any hostile activity and provide an early warning.

These videos seek to do the same for execs and leaders of industrial manufacturing firms. I hope you find value in it and will share it with others.

An Accountability Vacuum in Many Sales Organizations

I want to talk about accountability – specifically accountability in capital equipment sales. This is a huge focus in many cases when I chat with companies about their machinery sales effectiveness.

By accountability, I mean the following:

  1. Does everyone in the company own their results – good or bad? Do they blame the customer, competitor, the market, the quoting department, pricing and all kinds of other factors? Or do they accept that their number is a product of their efforts and effectiveness?
  2. Are clear expectations established, communicated, and tracked? This includes work hours, prospecting, meetings, preparation, timeliness in internal and admin tasks, etc. And what happens if accountability is not maintained? If you have a 30-day policy on expenses and a rep turns them in late, do you groan but pay them? If someone isn’t prospecting as expected, do you gently nudge them? Or is it a condition of employment?

In other words:

  1. Are we clear about what needs to be done
  2. Do we hold ourselves accountable for doing what we’ve agreed we will
  3. Are we consistent, appropriate, and decisive in addressing breakdowns in accountability

Sadly, the answer for many capital equipment companies I chat with is no.

In most cases, it’s no to all three.

Lack of Accountability Erodes Machinery Sales Effectiveness

And that’s a massive drag on machinery sales effectiveness in an environment where long-lead times and complex buying journeys offer lots of room to hide, and to excuse cutting sales corners.

So the natural question is, “Can we change and improve?”

Of course, but many companies seem to be unable to do so.

Think about CRM adoption, prospecting activities, and administrative details. In almost every company, almost every rep refuses – sometimes they’re explicit and combative, often they’re passive-aggressive.

As a result, companies often hesitate to publish hard and fast rules because they don’t want to have to follow through.

Why Is Accountability so Rare?

So why is this? Why is there so much resistance to change and reticence to hold people accountable?

I recently found a quote in Neil Howe’s book The Fourth Turning Is Here: What the Seasons of History Tell Us about How and When This Crisis Will End.1 He wrote “(Boomers’) governing style has been one of ironic detachment, in which institutions are allowed to run themselves with little accountability.

You may disagree, and you may be right. Perhaps he’s correct about boomers although that’s maybe not the cause of an endemic lack of organizational accountability. Nevertheless, the situation is real.

So I want to share two clips from Shane Parish’s recent interview with Frank Slootman2. Slootman is CEO of Snowflake and has a track record of growing companies. In the first clip, he talks about the consistency required in sales and he alludes to the role of accountability.

Performance is Built on Skill; Behavior, Like Accountability, is a Choice!

This second clip is much shorter – and I believe even more powerful. He makes a critical distinction between performance and behavior.

Think about that. If you’re doing all your prospecting and not getting meetings, then potentially

  • we need to coach you on technique
  • or we need to consider our sales enablement and prospect list quality
  • or we need to rethink our product market fit.

We’re working on it together.

On the other hand, if you’re not making the calls, for instance, there’s nothing for us to discuss.

This sounds harsh – and for many in today’s business world, indeed, it feels harsh.

But here are two alternative perspectives.

Sales Accountability isn't to Profits, It's to Your Colleagues and Their Families

Every single employee of the company, and their families, depends on your company’s success in consistently finding and closing businesses. Salespeople aren’t only potentially letting themselves down, they are disrespecting all their colleagues when they don't do the work. And if you enable that, so are you.

Secondly, we all know that if you begin to establish accountability, you’ll likely lose some folks. Maybe some long-time employees with lots of technical knowledge. That’s part of growth – but think about the opportunity that it creates.

What if you create such a strong culture of collaboration, effort, and success founded on accountability that you become a beacon for performers who are disgusted with the pervasive status quo of mediocrity?

Imagine what your company could do then! Machinery sales effectiveness would a byproduct of doing the work.

I’d challenge you to do that!

I’m Ed Marsh. Thank you for joining me for this episode of Signals from the OP. If you enjoyed it, please share it and subscribe – either to my YouTube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog

People Also Ask....

How can we maintain accountability to the sales process? 

Just like in your manufacturing process. You know that final product quality is a function of following a consistent, repeatable process. You wouldn't just hand each person a bucket of bolts and let them build your product their own way each time. So let's do the same with sales process. Identify key steps, critical information required at each stage and decision points. Your CRM should make it easy for sales people to follow the process; provide opportunities for coaching around sales methodology; and be welcome by reps because it helps them improve sales effectiveness.

Can a sales force evaluation help us understand why some reps struggle with accountability?

Of course. Evaluating your sales team includes evaluations of each individual and the team in aggregate. Important findings include individuals' limiting beliefs (maybe they think it's rude to cold call people), managers' effectiveness (often they only coach on pricing and technical features and struggle with accountability themselves), and team structure (maybe there's no clearly established process.)

Sales candidate assessments can help to identify potential accountability weakness in those applying for jobs as well. 

Is sales effectiveness just about closing deals?

Of course not. It's about prospecting, networking, researching target accounts, working full Friday's when prospects may be available, consistently qualifying the pipeline and keeping forecasts accurate, following the sales process and more. If you ever have to ask your reps for routine information, or more than once for special information they owe you, accountability is weak.

1 - Neil Howe's 4th Turning is Here

2 - YouTube video of Shane Parish's Knowledge Project discussion with Frank Slootman