Personal Accountability: The Secret to More Sales Wins

“Keep good relationships with others, but depend only on yourself.” – Christian D. Larson

How many times have you set a goal or made a promise—maybe to follow up on a lead or even just bring home dinner—only to drop the ball and forget entirely?

You say you’ll do something. And you know you should do it. But somehow, you get caught up in another task. You break your promise.

Hey, we’ve all done it before.

But it’s when you shift the blame to others that it becomes a real problem.

One of the most valuable skills you can learn in this business is how to foster a healthy sense of personal accountability.

When you’re personally accountable in the workplace, you not only achieve more. But you also empower yourself to improve, to better yourself, and to grow.

This guide shows you a proven framework for building personal accountability in the world of sales. We’ll also look at some of the subtler benefits of personal accountability, point out some examples, and even take a dip into the deeper psychology of responsibility.

It’s going to be a fun one, I promise! Now let’s go.

What Is Personal Accountability?

So what is personal accountability?

Personal accountability means your ability to take ownership of your life. Your choices, your actions—they all have consequences.

And when you have a healthy sense of personal accountability, you understand that you are responsible not just for making those choices, taking those actions. But you are also responsible for the consequences that occur as a result.

The highs, the lows. The joyous wins, the scathing losses. If anything comes about because of what you did, you recognize that you are the cause if you have personal accountability.

You aren’t quick to blame others. You don’t give half-baked excuses. And when you do mess up, you’re quick to apologize and make things right.

Personal Accountability Examples

So what does taking personal accountability look like, specifically when it comes to sales?

  • You consistently meet goals you’ve set for yourself or agreed upon with your manager.
  • You stick to your word, whether it be following up on a lead, getting a colleague the prospecting info you promised, or simply working on a new cadence when you said you would. 
  • If a goal seems unreasonable, you work with your manager to establish a better one.
  • You don’t give excuses if you don’t deliver on a promise. 
  • You search for answers to questions yourself first. And if you continue having trouble or falling short, you talk to the parties involved before things get out of hand. 
  • You take ownership of further developing your processes rather than chalking up failures to the processes you were given. 

Why Is Personal Accountability in the Workplace Important?

On the one hand, personal accountability helps keep things moving forward.

Reps take responsibility for their goals so that other parties can achieve the larger goals that rely on them. It’s simply how business is done.

But “for the greater good” is only half the answer here.

Because in reality, there are some very real benefits to cultivating your personal accountability in the workplace. Benefits that you personally will enjoy.
Here are just a few of the most notable.

A) Keeps You On Track

When you get down to it, sales is a numbers game.

You make a certain number of calls which nets a certain number of discovery sessions. From there, it whittles down to demo numbers, sales calls, and eventually closed deals.

Sure, the numbers may vary. But on the whole, the proportions tend to stay pretty consistent.

Now, when you have a low degree of personal accountability, you can easily fall behind on hitting these numbers. Why? Because you can easily make excuse after excuse when you end up falling short.

“I was waiting on the numbers from another department.”

“Leads have just been taking longer than normal to close.”

“No one’s calling me back!”

You can always come up with a new excuse. There are always external factors that influence your chances of success. And when you resort to making excuses every single time you fall short, it becomes easier to not live up to your goals. Because every time, you’ve got a scapegoat other than yourself.

But when you build personal accountability, you actually put in the energy to get better, to grow in the face of failure.

And that will keep you on track to achieve your goals rather than get too comfortable underperforming.

B) Builds Better Relationships

Good relationships are built on trust. Nowhere is this truer than in sales.

A solid relationship is absolutely essential to closing deals. After all, if no one can trust what you’re saying, why would they think your solution is actually going to solve their problem?

Maintaining a high degree of personal accountability is one of the best ways to build trust. You can do that by:

  • Following through on sending buyers the info they requested
  • Showing up on time to meetings
  • Bringing the materials you promised to your next meeting
  • Delivering on your assurances—everything from deal specifics to product functionality

These actions show buyers that you are someone worth trusting. And eventually, they’ll look at you as a trusted advisor rather than a sales rep just trying to earn a commission.

And ironically enough, that will earn you more sales.

C) Promotes Stability

It’s a tough world out there. And sadly enough, you can only rely on yourself these days. Prospects fall short on promises. The market is subject to fluctuations. And your company, your employer, gives no guarantees on giving you what they promised.

With all this chaos, the only thing you can control is what you do. How you set and accomplish your goals. How you react in the face of adversity.

When you develop personal accountability, you can push back on the ups and downs of the world around you. And you can create a more stable, predictable life if you want it.

D) Sets You Free

Piggybacking on that last point, taking personal responsibility in your life gives you the control you need to be freer.

If you’re personally accountable for the important things in your life, you only need to look to yourself to achieve those goals. You don’t need to depend on others to, say, advance your career, earn more money, or forge better relationships.

You are the missing piece, not someone else.

Now, one of the best ways I’ve found for increasing the control I have over my professional life is by maintaining and continually improving my personal brand. As personal branding expert Dorie Clark put it in our interview:

“Your personal brand, in many ways, is long term career insurance. Because we live in an unstable economy, unfortunately people's jobs can go away because of a variety of factors outside their control. But if you are known and respected by people in your industry, the minute they find out that you are available, they're going to say, “Well, Will's available. Let's bring him on. Let's find something.” You don't have to be beating the bushes and knocking on doors for six months to get hired. People are going to come to you. That's the value of a really strong personal brand.” – Interview with Dorie Clark, Personal Branding Expert

I actually show sales reps exactly how to improve their personal brands in the Selling Made Simple Academy. Because when you do so, you’re building a system that not only makes you firing-proof. But it also helps you attract better clients and advance your career.

That’s why taking accountability for your actions equals freedom.

The Sales Rep’s Personal Accountability Framework

There are clearly some very real benefits to greater personal accountability, both in terms of your employer’s success and your own personal success.

But the question now is how to improve personal accountability?

What can you specifically do to have better personal responsibility?

And what are some proven techniques to help make the transition a smoother one?

I built The Sales Rep’s Personal Accountability Framework to address all these questions and more. Plus, it’s simple to implement. Just:

  1. Understand the Personal Accountability Feedback Loop
  2. Identify & Reframe the Bad Questions
  3. Start Asking the Good Questions

1. Understand the Personal Accountability Feedback Loop

The first part of The Sales Rep’s Personal Accountability Framework is about understanding. Specifically, understanding that holding yourself accountable is hard.

Our brains are hard-wired to make ourselves the center of the universe. We subconsciously tell ourselves stories about our greatness, about how we aren’t the ones at fault. We see the world through me-colored lenses. Because evolutionarily, this self-centered approach keeps us alive.

It isn’t any wonder, then, why developing personal accountability is so tough—it requires us to admit to our own faults, which the human brain isn’t great at doing in the first place.

And to reverse that hard-wiring, we need to change up our feedback loop.

To explain, when we take an action, there’s a result. And over time, the brain connects that action with a result. But whether or not we take responsibility for that action depends on the questions we ask ourselves.

And altering those questions is key to becoming more accountable for our actions.

Questions—How Your Brain Makes Sense of the World

We ask ourselves questions every day.

“When will my partner get back with lunch?”

“Why did it have to rain on my vacation?”

“Who was supposed to follow up with that lead?”

Questions help us make sense of the world. And our internal answers to those questions shape the way we act and think.

But the way we ask questions also influences our view of reality. For instance, framing a question in a way that shifts the blame from ourselves to someone else inevitably leads us to feel victimized. Powerless. And yep, not personally accountable. This will limit positive social interactions and your healthy relationships.

That’s the focus of this framework—learning how to ask yourself questions that take the responsibility off others and put it onto you (when you deserve it). 

Habits Take Time to Develop

Before we get into the questions both good and bad, it’s important to emphasize the fact that good and bad habits don’t pop up overnight.

They take days, weeks, and even years to develop.

Now, you can of course change those habits. But the tricky part is, the deepest ones take a bit more work to reverse.

But the key is consistency. Once you find a habit you want to stick with, you need to put in the work to practice it as often as you can. Eventually, doing so won’t feel like work at all anymore. And instead, you’ll be doing it as naturally as the habit you were first trying to get rid of.

So ultimately, the point is this—stick with the habits you learn in this framework. Because eventually, they’re going to pay off.

“You will not decide your future. You'll decide your habits. And your habits will then in turn, decide your future. Are your habits aligned with your own personal goals or stretch goals?” – Interview with Derek Daly, Motor Racing Legend

2. Identify & Reframe the Bad Questions

Now, let’s start with the bad questions that limit personal accountability.

These are the questions that put your success in the hands of other people. The questions that take away agency and put it on someone else rather than yourself.

Now, the problem is knowing how to spot these bad questions as you’re asking them. Only then can you reframe them into something more positive that drives action.

So, what do these bad questions look like?

Bad Questions for Personal Accountability Examples
  • “When is the company going to give us better products to sell?”
  • “Why is our team always so short-staffed?”
  • “When are my customers going to understand our messaging? It’s so simple, even an idiot should know and understand what I’m talking about when I call.”
The “Why” & “When” Pitfalls

Now you may have noticed a pattern here.

Bad questions tend to contain key words. And “why” and “when” are two of the most common.

I assume it is the same for you, but when I ask questions that begin with “Why don’t…”, “Why is this happening…”, and “Why do…”, I always feel like a victim.

An example of a bad “why” question is:

  • “Why is this happening to me?”
  • “Why is my sales manager making it so difficult for me to do my job?”

Similarly, when we ask “when?” questions, what we’re saying to ourselves is that we have no choice in this moment. That we’re waiting on someone else to allow us to move forward.

An example would be:

  • “When will this buyer call me back?”
  • “When will my sales manager give me the information I need to pass on?”

When you ask lots of bad “when” questions, you feel like other people are holding you back.

“Why” and “when” questions are just two examples of bad questions. There are a few others that you should avoid too:

  • Questions that start with “why”, “when”, or “who”
  • Questions that have the words “they”, “them”, “we”, or “you”
  • Questions focus on avoiding action and keeping the current status quo

Recognizing these keywords as you ask yourself questions is vital for the next step, reframing.

Reframing Your Bad Questions

Now that you know what these bad questions are, you can catch yourself asking them and then reframe them to start asking the “good” questions.

For instance, if you ask yourself a bad question like…

“When is the company going to have better products to sell.”

Then your next thought is going to be a negative, disempowering one of…

“I wish someone would do something to help me here.” 

This kind of thought pattern over a long period of time will turn you into a miserable person who blames everyone else for their lack of success.

However, if you ask yourself a better question like…

“What else could I do to sell the products I have.”

Your narrow down your next thought to something that is empowering, you’ll feel in control, and you’re far more likely to make a better selling decision.

This is where learning to ask the good questions comes in. And it’s the next and last step of our framework.

“The thing with habits is you cannot drop a habit, you can only replace a habit. So we have to look at our ineffective habits, identify them, and replace them with the opposite habit.” – Interview with Bob Urichuck, Sales Speaker, Trainer, & Author

3. Start Asking the Good Questions

So if bad accountability questions have the following…

  • They open with “why”, “when”, or “who”
  • They contain the words “they”, “them”, “we”, or “you”
  • They focus on avoiding action and keeping the current status quo

Then we can ask good accountability questions if we do the opposite…

  • They begin with “what” or “how”
  • They contain the word “I”
  • They are always focused on action

If this seems incredibly simple, it’s because it is incredibly simple. The hardest part is to change any habitual questioning patterns you might have.

If you’re blaming other people for the issues in your sales role, then you need to:

  • Become conscious of all the occasions that you are blaming other people
  • Start to ask better accountability questions that lead to a more positive outcome, rather than trying to push responsibility off onto other people
  • Act on these better accountability questions
  • Repeat this cycle over and over until your default is to take responsibility rather than blame others
Good Questions for Personal Accountability Examples

Let’s look at how we can shift the bad question examples and reframe them into good questions.

These questions…

  • “When is the company going to give us better products to sell?”
  • “Why is our team always so short-staffed?”
  • “When are my customers going to understand our messaging? It’s so simple, even an idiot should know and understand what I’m talking about when I call.”

Would shift into their good counterparts…

  • “What can I do to make these products more attractive to prospects?”
  • “How should I compensate for the lack of manpower on our team?”
  • “What can I change in our messaging that makes it easier for customers to understand?”
Qualities of Good Questions: “What” & “How”

Now, good questions tend to begin with “what” or “how.”

As opposed to their ambiguous counterparts (“why” and “when”), these words get to the heart of the matter. They point to specificity rather than vagueness.

So instead of supposing the cause of a problem, you can instead focus on what needs to be done to fix it.

Qualities of Good Questions: Contain “I”

Next up is good questions concentrate on you. And as such, they contain words like “I”, “my”, or “me.”

This quality is absolutely essential. After all, how can you increase your personal accountability if you aren’t thinking about yourself along the way?

When you find yourself asking questions that are focused on others, try shifting the questions back to what you can do instead.

Qualities of Good Questions: Focused on Action

Finally, good questions focus on the action.

What needs to be done here? How can we prevent it from happening in the future? And what actions led to this outcome?

All good questions should steer away from the abstract. And instead, they should focus on clear, concrete details and actions.

The more often you shift your “wondering” questions to those focused on action, the better positioned you’ll be to take responsibility in your life.

“Success isn't about working harder, because people go, “I’ve got to work harder.” It's not about that. It's about doing the consistent action on a daily basis… What makes great people great is that it's not that they like to do something, it's that they don't like to do it, but they do it anyway. You just cannot become successful in anything if you avoid it.” – Interview with Marx Acosta-Rubio, Business & Lifestyle Strategist

Wrapping Up

That about wraps things up for The Sales Rep’s Personal Accountability Framework.

Taking responsibility for your actions leads to a slew of personal and professional benefits. It keeps you on track, helps you build better relationships, promotes stability, and sets you free from the control of others.

And The Sales Rep’s Personal Accountability Framework is designed to grow your personal accountability effectively and easily.

All it takes is:

  1. Understanding the Personal Accountability Feedback Loop
  2. Identifying & Reframing the Bad Questions
  3. Asking the Good Questions Instead

Sure, shifting your automatic thinking like this takes some work. I won’t deny that. But when you do put in the effort consistently, it gets easier and easier every single day.

And when you hold yourself and yourself alone responsible for what happens in your life, you’ll have the only thing you need to achieve massive success—yourself.

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