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The Green Sheet Online Edition

June 09, 2008 • Issue 08:06:01

Allies in accountability

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

Many comedy sketches revolve around a character's pathological inability to take responsibility when something goes wrong. The theme's popularity endures, in part, because the overpowering urge to avoid negative consequences is part of the human condition.

In the payments industry (as in any profession) it's easy to find reasons for failure that have nothing to do with what we, as ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) did or didn't do. For example, we say the merchant refused to sign because he or she just isn't smart enough to understand the savings, or the merchant switched to the competition because the processor did something wrong.

Take charge

When you lose an account, you bear the impact: lost revenue. So, rather than put the blame on someone else, doesn't it make more sense to focus on what you could have done or can do now to take control of the situation?

And that is exactly what the most successful ISOs and MLSs do and what the least successful among us don't do. The successful ones take responsibility and, more important, take action. Get help The accountability quotient starts with a sales action plan. And the final, critical element of any plan is the development of an accountability group.

The group can consist of valued friends, reliable peers and co-workers, or anyone you can trust fully with your plan of action and personal goals. It is imperative that they be people with whom you can be completely honest.

Those who agree to serve in the accountability group must understand the commitment they are making as well as the importance of this commitment.

This group must be willing to hold you accountable for your daily, weekly and monthly actions. They need to be people who will call daily and ask if you made the calls you had targeted, and if you didn't make the calls, they need to ask you why.

They must also be people who will push when you aren't keeping up with your plan - literally holding you accountable for your actions.

Be real

They won't accept excuses; instead they point responsibility back to you. They should praise when things go well and be the first to question when things don't go as planned.

Here's an example: You have scheduled four face to face cold calls for the day. At the end of the day, a member of your accountability group calls you and asks, "How was your day? Did you get in front of those four people?"

"No, I got distracted with a couple of operations issues," you reply honestly.

At this juncture, the accountability partner must be firm and ask, "Well, did those issues increase your sales? How are you going to make the seven deals you've planned for this week unless you make those calls? What's the plan for making up today's lost time?"

No softening statements, only a blunt assessment of the error. Knowing these calls are going to happen will drive you to make sure you execute your plan. We will be made accountable.

Reality checks like these are best received when they come from someone you trust. Knowing the person calling has your best interests in mind, not any other self-serving motivation, is important.

Go forward

One caveat, the accountability group is not there to stroke your ego. They are there to hold you accountable for what you have defined as your targeted actions.

And when you meet your targets during the week, accountability partners can't just congratulate you on their completion; they must also point you toward next week and even higher numbers and success.

Accountability partners aren't only there to criticize. They are there as support and to recognize when you are struggling. At those times, the priority is to hold you up and reinforce and encourage the correct behaviors.

It is essential at these times that they remind you there is value in your actions, and even though you saw no success today, you will tomorrow.

In essence, the partner must remind you that your plan works, to keep working it and results will follow.

Give back

You may ask why anyone would make this level of commitment without being paid to do so? The answer may be that you are doing the same for others by belonging to their accountability groups.

A good accountability group can be the difference between a successful action plan and an unsuccessful one. Its value is immeasurable.

My group consists of a very good friend who owns his own business, two peers in our industry and two friends in other sales professions.

We often meet other salespeople to role play, discuss challenges (hoping to get a different perspective) and to reinforce that we are not alone. end of article

Executing an action plan is a challenge; doing so alone is almost impossible. With a solid accountability group, the challenge is lessened, and the success is amplified. It's well worth the commitment. Jeff Fortney is Director of Business Development with Clearent LLC. He has more than 12 years experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340.

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