July 27, 2015

Salespeople and Sales Leaders: Good Sales Management is Not Micromanagement

It’s fashionable today for salespeople, particularly underperforming salespeople, to complain that they’re being micromanaged. In fact, many underperformers become master manipulators as a defense mechanism. As soon as managers get anywhere near sniffing around their activity level, these struggling sellers play the micromanager card. 

In my upcoming book, Sales Management. Simplified – The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team (coming from AMACOM this October), there is an entire chapter dedicated to the regular, scheduled 1:1 sales manager-salesperson results-focused meeting. I share a foolproof methodology to help sales managers increase accountability without coming across as micromanagers. One of the keys is for managers to follow a smart, logical accountability progression that begins with sales results, moves to looking into pipeline health, and only then progresses into reviewing a seller’s activity. However, even when managers follow the progression and do everything right, salespeople who are not performing often blow a lot of smoke to confuse and distract their managers, and then they’re quick to claim that they don’t do well when they’re being micromanaged. It’s a convenient excuse, isn’t it? “I’m not achieving my goal, so please don’t ask me hard/smart questions because I don’t like that; it makes me uncomfortable, and won’t help anyway” (wink wink).

When that is the case, I have a strong message for both sales managers and their salespeople who play this game:

First, to the manager, let me be very direct:  This is not micromanagement. When results aren’t what they should be, and the pipeline of future sales opportunities is not healthy, then digging into your salesperson’s activity is simply good management, not micromanagement. Don’t for a minute let your struggling, defensive salesperson manipulate you into believing otherwise!

Next, to the highly defensive salesperson playing the micromanagement card and declaring (really just whining) that you don’t perform well when being “micromanaged,” I would ask you to please stop!  Clearly you have not been doing too well on your own before your manager stepped in attempting to help you. So if you don’t like these deeper level accountability conversations, let me offer you two other options: 1. You can improve results and the health (# and movement of opportunities) of your pipeline so your manager doesn’t need to ask about activity, or 2. feel the freedom to go work somewhere else where they’re not interested in managing you and don’t mind if you fail.

Listen, I hate being micromanaged. Everyone is sales does, too. But let’s not toss out that term so flippantly just because we don’t want the spotlight of truth shined on us. Salesperson, be honest with yourself and with your manager. If you’re not delivering the numbers, and your pipeline is rather anemic/pathetic indicating that it doesn’t look like you’re about to turn your results around, isn’t it fair to be asked about your activity and where you’re spending your time?