How to keep yourself accountable without a sales manager

Anthony Iannarino is an international speaker, B2B sales leader, and the bestselling author of The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need and The Lost Art of Closing. Visit thesalesblog.com to read more of his daily sales tips and insights.

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It’s a sales manager’s job to ensure that the right resources are applied to the right set of tasks and objectives.

Even though they have to juggle a lot of responsibilities in the way of meetings and reporting, the best sales leaders spend most of their time working with their salespeople, training, teaching, and coaching. They know that their success as a manager requires that they develop their salespeople to be their very best.

But what if your sales organization doesn’t have a manager? How can you sell effectively without the processes, goals, and accountability that a manager provides?

As your own sales manager, you are responsible for ensuring that your company meets its goals. Since the primary resources for you to achieve those goals are your own talents and efforts, you are also responsible for your personal and professional development.

Nobody said that selling without a sales manager was going to be easy—but it’s not impossible. Here are three ways you can live up to the task.

#1: Set Your Own Goals and Accountabilities

Goals help you know what is expected of you. Accountabilities set up a feedback loop so you know where you stand and what needs to be changed. Even without the support of a good sales manager, you shouldn’t work without goals and accountabilities.

The easiest way to start this process is by determining your long term goals and working backwards. First, ask yourself, “What do I have to produce this calendar year to be personally successful? How much profit will my sales generate for the company, and will that profit be enough to help the company reach its business goals?

The answers to those questions will help form your long-term goals. Once they’re in place, you can break them into more manageable and actionable short-term goals. For example, if you need to generate $1,000,000 in new revenue annually, then you know your short-term goal is to generate $250,000 each calendar quarter.

To make your short-term goals more meaningful and specific, a few important data points need to be added. If your average deal size is $50,000, then you know you need to win five deals each quarter to make your $250,000 goal. You also need to know what your win rate is when you compete for deals. If you win 50% of the deals for which you compete, then you know you need to compete for at least 10 deals each quarter to win the five deals you need.

Having quarterly opportunity goals is necessary to hitting your sales goals. How many opportunities will you need to create each quarter to reach your revenue goal, keeping in mind your win ratio and average deal size?

#2: Review Your Own Pipeline and Opportunities

Regular pipeline reviews are a typical part of the sales manager/sales rep relationship. Even if you have nobody to report to, conducting these reviews independently will allow you to understand what’s working, what’s not working, and what changes need to be made.

What’s a pipeline review?

A pipeline review is a review of all of the opportunities you are pursuing and where they are in the sales process. One of the primary questions a sales manager would want to answer by reviewing your pipeline is whether you have enough opportunities to reach your quarterly goals. Without enough opportunities, you are unlikely to meet your numbers.

To review your pipeline, grab a report from your CRM that shows you all of your opportunities and their stage in your sales process. Then, answer these questions:

  • How many opportunities do I presently have in my pipeline?
  • What is the total value of these opportunities?
  • What percentage of these opportunities would I have to win to make my number?
  • Do I have enough opportunities to make my number this quarter? Can I afford to lose some of them and still make my number?

Answering these questions can help you determine how well your plan is working. Is it creating enough opportunities? Are your activities producing the outcomes that you need?

#3: Be Tough on Yourself With Honest, Regular Reviews

Succeeding without a sales manager means holding yourself to a higher standard than anyone else will. Take an hour every month to review your progress against your quarterly goals, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I generate enough business in the month to account for one third of my quarterly goal?
  • Did I generate enough opportunities to ensure that I will reach my goal the following month?
  • What does my pipeline look like? (note: Unless you have a very short sales cycle, a monthly pipeline review is enough.)

If you are tracking well, your plan is working. If you are not tracking well, now is the time to sit down, study the results, and make adjustments.

You’ll also want to hold quarterly self-reviews. Every third month, take an hour to review the last month, as well as the two prior months, and ask yourself:

  • Did working my plan help me to meet my goals?
  • Did I generate enough opportunities to meet my quarterly opportunity goal?
  • Did the modifications I made to my plan improve my results?
  • What are the differences between the results from month to month? What accounts for the differences?
  • How will what I’ve learned inform my future plans? What needs to change? What is working? What do I need to do more of in the future?

Unless you like wasting time, do not rationalize when answering these questions. You have to accept that, good or bad, you are wholly responsible for your results. This is emotionally difficult, but in the real world there are no excuses. Deal fall through? You should have had another one. Lost a deal that you should have won because of price? Sorry, but life isn’t fair.

Taking responsibility and owning the result, regardless of the circumstances, is what will allow you to make adjustments and improve in the future. There are lessons to learn, if you are open to learning them.

Parting Thoughts: Keep Your Promises to Yourself

You’ve heard it said that successful people do the things that the unsuccessful aren’t willing to do, and that is true. Whether you have a sales manager or not, your success will depend heavily on your ability to depend on yourself. You have to keep the commitments that you make to yourself and do what most needs to be done, even when it is uncomfortable, and even when there are attractive distractions available (and distractions are always attractive).

There isn’t a sales manager on Earth whose job it is to inspire you to keep your commitments to yourself; they shouldn’t have to. It’s your job to inspire and motivate yourself. The very best sales manager—the one that has complete control over what you do and what you don’t do—is the sales manager that you see when you look in the mirror each morning. There isn’t anyone with a greater ability to ensure your success.

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This blog post was adapted from Anthony Iannarino’s free eBook, Seizing Your Sales Destiny, which you can download here.

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