How to Coach for Accountability

BY C. Lee Smith
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Engagement without accountability is entitlement,” says Cy Wakeman, drama researcher, global thought-​leader, and New York Times best-​selling author. Could you use a sales coaching platform to coach for accountability and help your reps finish projects on time? Maybe the sales rep who keeps blaming their inability to close a deal with a tough the prospect needs to be held accountable. Managers: The responsibility for sales accountability falls on you. Wakeman took on this topic in her second Manage Smarter podcast interview with us.

First, managers need to understand what sales accountability means. Are you, the manager, enabling your employees to escape accountability? When the work doesn’t get done by our employees, managers must step up and complete the project. If that’s your typical method of managing a struggling employee, you’re failing on two levels. You’re not managing for results, and you’re not developing your employee for future success. 


Wakeman will tell you that accountability in the workplace requires your employees to have a specific mindset. You need to coach them into making a commitment. They must buy into what you’re asking them to do. Let’s say you fill a position that requires weekend monitoring of your company’s network servers. Your new employee should commit to working when service interruptions take place on Saturdays and Sundays. 

That same situation applies to the sales rep who you’re counting on to drive regularly to a client site. If that client will only meet with vendors on Friday afternoons, your rep must agree to that schedule. As a manager, you don’t want to hear excuses. Your rep might try to tell you that they need to be back in the office early on Friday afternoons so they can see their kids’ soccer games. Not acceptable.

To head off this lack of sales accountability, you must get the rep to commit to the schedule. If they can’t explain how they’ll commit, initiate the tougher conversation. Often, that means telling them to find employment elsewhere.


Commitment is just the first step, says Wakeman. Your employees will run into roadblocks during the course of a project. Some of your team members may be naturally more resilient than others. When a prospect cancels a meeting, for example, some sales reps will throw up their hands and declare the game is over. 

You can coach reps who are willing to learn and change. Watch for their responses when you ask them about other steps they’ve taken to connect with the stubborn prospect. Have they sent a message on LinkedIn? Have they made calls to try to reschedule the meeting? Have they tried to build a relationship by sharing great and unique content with the prospect? This coaching helps reps understand what it takes to go the extra mile. Once they develop their own resilience, they’ll be much closer to achieving the ‘high accountability’ levels that drive productivity. 


The final step in helping your employees become highly accountable is self-​reflection. After successfully completing a project, set up a debrief. Discuss what went well and what could have gone better. Talking through these details can help team members think ahead for their next project and to deliver outstanding results.