Improve Accountability, Improve Results

By Dave Clements, president and CEO of Lasso When it comes to sales organizations, “accountability” can be one of those words that get plenty of lip service, but very little execution. Sales people like to avoid it because it means that their process will be placed under close analysis by their superiors, while most managers tend to dodge it because it suddenly makes them a potential “villain,” following the team’s every move and disrupting the normal flow of the sales process.That’s all well and good… except in tough economic times, when the process needs to work better than it ever has before. For a real estate sales team working in today’s marketplace, introducing accountability should be a welcome invitation to closely examine the details of the sales process in your organization. It should also spark the realization that it’s more important than ever to focus on existing leads rather than expending energy, time and money on drawing in new leads. More than anything else, “accountability” for a real estate sales or leasing team means that every lead receives the right amount of follow-up to provide the right information and attention. Ultimately, that is the goal of accountability—to never lose a lead because of inattentiveness, or a failure to follow up. Here are a few best practices for implementing an ongoing accountability strategy for your sales team.Take it back to basics. Even the best sales agents occasionally find themselves drawn into playing the “blame game.” Deals aren’t closing because of competition, a failure in marketing, or low traffic in the sales center. The truth is almost always far more mundane—sales succeed and fail based on the fundamentals of good communication, strategic pricing and a quality product.There is no magic bullet that will transform every existing lead into a signed contract, and that’s not the goal of a sound accountability strategy. Instead, use the hard data that lead tracking provides to examine the fundamentals of your organization’s sales process. It’s about answering basic questions: When a new lead enters the system, is the assigned salesperson executing follow-up in a timely fashion? What methods of communication work best for each particular lead—does one prospect respond better to e-mails than phone calls? How many leads were driven by marketing’s last direct mail campaign, and what did sales deliver on those leads? Gather and track the right sales data. By its very nature, accountability for a sales team requires aggressive and active tracking of each sales lead, along with all contact between the sales team and each lead. There is no better way to track and manage leads than through a robust customer relationship management (CRM) solution. The right CRM solution will serve your specific needs as a real estate sales organization, with dashboards designed to keep salespeople on track with follow-ups and communication, and reports available to help managers observe how the sales team is doing in terms of follow-through on existing leads. A robust CRM solution will enable stronger strategies not just for the sales team but for departments across the organization. Marketing will be able to more effectively determine which campaigns brought in the most leads and which haven’t had a strong impact. Customer service reps can note each contact they have with a buyer and build a relationship that extends far beyond just the final contract signing.According to The Yankee Group, a consumer trends research organization, up to 80 percent of sales leads go stale, are lost, or are simply never followed up on. More than anything else, a renewed sense of accountability for sales and marketing teams means that the gap between properly executed leads and fumbled leads should continue to shrink down to nothing.