How not to micromanage

by Shannon F.

It may not come as a surprise to you that micromanagers are born out of a shaky economy. When sales are not as good as they could be, managers don’t just blame external forces or poor sales rep performance; they blame themselves. Tough times, an urgent need to drive revenue, and the pinch of desperation are all fairly understandable reasons for tightening the reins and beginning to monitor your sales team’s activity more carefully. But don’t risk going too far; it’s harmful and counterproductive to get too immersed in the daily minutia, and your sales team will resent you for it. Here are some tips for letting go of your need for control.

Listen to others.

Micromanagers may come off as highly conscientious or even anxious, but at the heart of this personality is a touch of arrogance. If you’re a micromanager, you tend to think you are the only one capable of making the right decision or having a good idea—after all, you are the boss for a reason. But if you’re the only one who does the talking in your sales meetings, you are missing out on a diverse source of ideas and insight. Encourage your team to contribute their suggestions and solutions. You may find that someone has a better way of approaching a sales situation or overcoming an objection.

Trust your sales team.

Chances are that your team is not comprised entirely of newbies. If you have a group of proven professionals working in your sales department, a little trust is probably in order. While there’s room for improvement in almost everyone, it’s important that you trust your salespeople to get the job done on their own. For example, if a sales rep works hard to set an important appointment, but you swoop in at the last minute to close the deal, you are displaying a lack of faith in that rep’s ability. As you can imagine, this often leads to low morale and lack of initiative. So…

Ask before you step in.

Saying, “Do you need help?” or “Do you have any concerns about…” opens up the floor so that your employees can request assistance if needed. If they don’t need assistance, you can save your time for something more useful!

Provide resources, not decrees.

Give salespeople the tools and resources to improve their performance. For example, encourage them to attend sales training webinars or share their personal strategies and successes with one another. This fosters a sense of independence in your sales department, since you will no longer be the only source of information in the room.

Have a system, and train reps in that system from the beginning.

If you have a preferred system for saving files, a specific template for receiving reports, etc., make sure your employees are aware of that from the start. Making frequent changes to systems and processes can be disruptive and makes you appear nitpicky.

Know what matters.

Some sales managers confuse micromanagement with simply requiring sales reps to be accountable for their activity and performance. Often, the best way to foster the accountability you want from your sales reps is to back off a little. This means knowing what matters (setting enough appointments; keeping the pipeline filled) and what doesn’t matter as much (the personal spin your sales rep puts on her call script; his preference for Chrome instead of Internet Explorer.)

So what should you do when performance is low?

When a rep appears to be struggling, now is the time to take a closer look at what is not working. Set aside some time to discuss why performance is lagging, but instead of telling your salesperson exactly what she should do to fix the problem, ask her to help you develop a plan. Ask how often she thinks you should check in with her to help her stay on track. If your salesperson is not committed to making use of every available resource to improve, you may need to rethink his or her role on your team.

Are you a micromanager, a slackager, or just right? Find out with our fun infographic.

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