“I want my people to be accountable.”

“I want our people to be MORE accountable.”

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

Sound familiar? 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 leaders, even in their current CYA situation, have no concept of “field reality.” Rather, they implement some form of accountability through CRM (customer relationship management) and wonder why NO ONE uses it.

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 and cumbersome, and requires additional work. Leaders, who bought CRM for the wrong reason, expect all salespeople to document everything. They 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.) Responsibility has a much more inclusive meaning.

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

• responsible for their results

…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 micromanaging. 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 my achievement and work.

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

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.

Jeffrey Gitomer can be reached by phone at (704) 333-1112 or by email at salesman@gitomer.com. © 2011 Jeffrey H. Gitomer