Several years ago during the early days of my professional sales career, I was exposed to what I believed at the time, to be a very novel and progressive aspect of employee management. As part of a very formal activity, I met with my direct supervisor in an annual goal setting and performance evaluation. The tool was an official booklet that provided an outline for the establishment of goals for the coming year. It also included a template for the reporting of the prior year’s performance, benchmarked against the goals that were established for that year.

As I participated in my first annual performance evaluation, I marveled at the ultimate power and simplicity of the process. Imagine, actually setting goals and performance targets and then being held accountable for the results! How truly profound this principle was and yet, so easily implemented. There was no guesswork to the expectations for my performance. It was clearly defined and written so I knew, as well as management, the forecast of my performance. I was held accountable for a very specific result and would sit in front of my supervisor in twelve months time and report my achievements.

I was very familiar with the concept of accountability. When I was in my youth, my father would give me a list of jobs to be completed in our yard the beginning of each week, and each evening when he returned home from work, I would report on my progress and accomplishments. I tried to never disappoint him and to live up to his expectations. I honestly believe that my father planted weeds just to provide work for me. Then there was the three hundred foot driveway that required shoveling after each snowstorm in order to drive the car up the hill to the house. I believe the driveway was strategically engineered just to teach me how to work. Every year at the beginning of the winter season I was ceremoniously presented a brand new snow shovel to replace the one that was totally worn out by the end of the season. There was a standing winter rule at our house: the family car was never to be parked on the street at the bottom of the driveway.

Accountability is the discipline of setting goals and then reporting progress on those goals. Assign and report is a principle so profound and powerful, that very little in this world would be achieved without its application. And yet, the principle is only half applied at best, by most companies and managers. Accountability is simple and yet basic in concept, but formidable in application. Let me explain how this principle has been taught and applied with all of our clients at The Business Performance Group.

  1. At the beginning of our sales training and coaching program we set goals with each client. The goal setting is a collaborative effort between the business owner or sales executive, the salesperson and the sales coach.
  2. All goals are broken down into monthly and then weekly increments.
  3. Each week the sales coach, working closely with each salesperson, determines the expectation for the coming week and then gives the salesperson the opportunity to report on their performance for the prior week. Fifty-two times each year the salesperson has a performance target and fifty-two times each year the salesperson reports their performance.
  4. Each week the sales coach teaches and trains the salesperson how to apply the specific principles and skills necessary to achieve the goals for the week.
  5. In addition to reporting their performance against the weekly goals, each salesperson is asked the following four questions designed to keep them focused on achievement:
    1. What did you do well this past week relating to your sales activities?
    2. What could you have done better in pursuit of your sales goals?
    3. What single activity do you want to focus on this coming week for improvement?
    4. What will you need to do to implement the planned improvement?

At the beginning of my sales career I was impressed with the power of an annual performance review. The skills of goal setting and regular accountability were principles that I had learned in my youth, but had not previously considered pertinent to sales achievement. I have since discovered the concept of “assign and report” to be so profound and basic to success, that I can truly say that to not apply the principle in your sales activities, puts you squarely on the road to failure. In my youth I was taught the discipline of assign and report and in my business I apply its powerful application fifty-two times each year with the salespeople I train. I challenge you to do the same.