7 Tips to Avoid Micromanaging Your Sales Team
All management roles are stressful to some degree, but managing a sales force is arguably one of the toughest jobs out there. With so many competing priorities and interests, pressures from key stakeholders across the organization, and not to mention the burden of the company’s financial success on your shoulders. And that’s just the beginning.
The most challenging part of the job is building the right balance between not enough and too much management of a skilled sales team.
As a manager, much of your success is dependent on your sales reps’ performance, which means figuring out how to motivate your team without micromanaging them is critical to success, both individually and collectively.
For new and seasoned sales managers alike, micromanaging is a fallback position. It’s one that often indicates lack of trust or experience, insecurity, or an “I can do it better” attitude.
Since Sales Managers retain responsibility for goal attainment and sales performance, it’s easy for them to slip into an overly granular look at all things related to day-to-day sales activities.
But micromanagement can have dangerous effects on your company: employee disengagement, mis-allocation of time and resources, high turnover, stunted growth or worse.
How do you know if you’re micromanaging? This article from Workzone outlines 11 common signs. Are you guilty of any?
- You’re constantly drowning in low-priority tasks, or meetings about minutia.
- You’re focused on one team or group vs. another.
- You’re overwhelmed with status reports and updates, and spend most of your day approving your employees’ work.
- You spend most of your day monitoring the progress of each employee’s work.
- You have difficulty delegating work.
- You ask to be cc’d on even the most minor of emails.
- You give complex, step-by-step instructions, even for simple tasks.
- You frequently work on tasks solo, rather than with the input of your team.
- You’re the only one talking at weekly meetings.
- Your team constantly finishes projects late.
- Your team has consistently high turnover.
If you’re nodding your head yes to some or all of these, that’s okay! We can help you step back, expand your view, be more strategic and get out of the weeds.
The secret? Let go and trust your team to handle the details by leading conversations and guiding others to do what needs to be done instead of doing the work yourself.
Here are 7 tips to help you make the shift from manager to leader and start getting your sales team to manage themselves by focusing on these things:
Frequency of Contacts
Preparation and Planning
The Worth of Each Sale
Feedback vs. Permission
Tools, Training, and Technology
Great performance starts with having a clear understanding of goals and expectations. You need to have a conversation with each member of your team to establish guidelines and requirements for their role.
Failing to set clear standards of performance and behavior can cause confusion or misunderstanding, leaving your sales rep unable to perform their role even if they are capable of doing so.
You’ll want to make sure each of your reps has a clear understanding of:
- their role, required capabilities, responsibilities and contribution within the team and the organization
- what they are accountable for and expected to deliver to their team and organization’s mission and goals
- expectations around ethics, values and behavior
- how their performance will be measured and assessed
If needed, revisit this on an ongoing basis to re-align and ensure there is no confusion.
Every year, businesses embark on a new set of goals. But how do we know if we are on track to achieve them?
The first step to helping your sellers manage themselves is to introduce the importance of tracking their ratios.
At the end of each year, a sales person will have made a certain number of calls to a certain number of different people. As a result of those calls, or attempts to reach out, they will have, in fact, spoken to a few, presented to some, and closed many. This means there would have been an average order size.
Now, you may be thinking, yes, that’s obvious! But how many sales people effectively track their ratios? Not many.
By introducing the importance of this fundamental exercise, your sellers will be able to self-diagnose and course-correct themselves when they notice their ratios aren’t on track.
Frequency of Contacts
When a salesperson reaches out to the marketplace, the most important ratio is not the number of calls made but rather it is the number of different people we talk to. So, for example, if you call 2,000 people and I call 2,000 people, but you call 2,000 different people, and I only call the same 200 people ten times each, you will no doubt out sell me.
Our job as a manager is to help our sellers prioritize their time. You can do this by helping them decide the number of times they should call each lead.
For example, tell sellers to call no more than twice in a week and three times in a month. Why? Because by imposing that rule, even if they occasionally violate it for one reason or another, they’re generally encouraged to reach out to more new people. Increasing the number of new people you call each year will have a positive impact on your sales activity. Understand that there’s a difference between over-calling and under calling and know what that is.
Planning and Preparation
The goal of every first conversation with a prospect is to create a scheduled next step. Before the first meeting, guide your salespeople to think of options to suggest to the prospect that are both easy and potentially helpful to both parties. Ask yourself, what is the range of next steps we should suggest as a follow-up to this first meeting?
- Should the next meeting include my boss? And their boss?
- Do we need to bring in an expert to the next meeting? Do they need to bring an expert?
- Should we set-up a demo for the next meeting?
When you advise your sellers to drive the meeting to the point where you can decide and agree upon next steps, it gauges the interest and viability of the prospect while shorten the sales cycle and helping your reps more effectively prioritize their time and pipeline.
The Worth of Each Sale
What is each new sale really worth? Is this the biggest possible deal we can get? As managers, we must encourage our sellers to assess the sale before moving forward. To do this, they need to think about things like the size and total profit of the sale versus how much effort and resources are required to fulfill the deal successfully. Help the seller understand that some sales are not worth pursuing. We must make that decision sooner rather than later because one of the worst things we could do is waste our time trying to close a sale that a.) We aren’t prepared to service and b.) Is not worth getting or having.
Feedback vs. Permission
As managers, we often give off the impression that we want our direct reports to ask for permission to move forward with a decision or next step, which makes your sales reps question their decision-making ability and competency.
Encourage your team to keep you informed along the way by telling them you are there to support them through providing feedback and coaching. Emphasize you trust them and think they are fully capable of making the decision about an account or pending sale.
Tools, Technology, and Training
The tools, technology, and training you offer your team could be the difference between maximizing performance or missing the goal.
Give your team the tools, technology, and training to enhance their skills, ability, and knowledge. This alone will help make your team more self-sufficient and reassure you of their abilities.
If you tend to micromanage, it’s probably because you have a genuine investment in your team’s success. But the next time you’re tempted to jump in and “save the day” remember to stop, think, take a step back, and guide your team to uncover the solution.
Looking for more tips? Check out our top tips guide to help you keep the momentum going!
*Originally published in January 2014, updated September 2018.
About Molly D Protosow
Molly Protosow is the COO and Training Strategist for DMTraining. She manages the day-to-day business and training operations while helping research and develop new training programs as well as refreshing signature programs to reflect the newest sales trends, technology, and best practices. Molly utilizes her wide-range of skills to create sales and marketing assets focused on delivering value to DMT’s clients. Molly has a passion for learning and leveraging new knowledge and experiences. Outside of DMTraining, Molly is a hard core Pittsburgh sports fan, enjoys staying active by running and golfing, and unwinds by reading and playing the piano.