The five keys to coaching without micromanaging

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Micromanager. There aren’t many worse labels to pin on a boss. When considering sales managers, the term is exponentially more volatile – and more common. It’s hard for a sales manager to not be considered a micromanager. Most great salespeople are autonomous and don’t need much from leadership. Average and poor-performing salespeople usually think they can succeed with the same hands-off approach as the great ones receive, while the really bad ones are usually looking for excuses — and that pesky sales manager who never leaves them alone is a good target.

If a sales manager conducts weekly sales meetings, holds salespeople accountable to their forecasts, asks about designs and estimates or pushes back on expense reports that don’t follow procedure, they’re usually considered micromanagers. When you think about it, sales managers need to perform these duties to succeed; however, when they do, they often get labeled. What a mess! There is a way out of this quandary, so before returning to your old sales job or going back to law school, check out my five ideas for coaching salespeople without micromanaging:

1.    Don’t spend the same amount of time with everyone. Understand everyone’s needs and tendencies on your sales team before deciding on a plan of action.  Some people will need your attention every day on every task. Others only need you to approve their commissions. Figure out what your salespeople need, and don’t worry about being fair with your time.

2.    Don’t ignore the superstars. Many managers that embrace the first idea think that their superstars don’t need their attention, and they ignore them. A salesperson’s performance is not directly related to their neediness. Some superstars need ongoing attention and reinforcement, and the ones that don’t need attention still don’t want to be ignored. Take them to lunch every now and then, ask them what they need to continue their success and always pat them on the back for their production.

3.    Coach. No really, be a coach. What do coaches of sports teams do? They oversee practice, motivate and help their players execute as a team. Unfortunately, we tend to think that sales coaching ends at training or deal reviews. That’s not coaching; that’s knowledge sharing. When is the last time your team ran through role playing exercises, or you rode in the field with them and gave them instructional feedback at the end of the day? Don’t just share knowledge – a $12.50 book can do that – be a coach.

4.    Create a professional development initiative for each salesperson. One thing that all competitive people want is a path to improve their skills. However, not all salespeople need to work on the same skills. Interview and ask each salesperson what skill they’d like to improve, and then decide together on their initiative. One person may want to improve their time management; another will want to get better at prospecting; and a third may want to improve their presentation skills. Whatever it is, make sure each person has one professional development initiative and make it your mission to help them all achieve it. 

5.    Don’t worry about micromanaging. Once you develop your plan of action for managing your team, move forward without hesitation. You should be aware of your impact on the team, but don’t obsess over it. Set your plan; do it; and make modifications every now and then.

Chris Peterson is president of the Vector Firm, a leader in helping security companies improve their sales and digital marketing performance.