Sales Management or Micromanagement?

Are you a Micromanager?

I conducted an informal survey the other day discussing the roles of sales process within the staffing industry. Most of the respondents responded positively to the need for greater structure within sales organizations in order for sales people to maneuver through an increasingly competitive environment. One respondent caught my eye, primarily because he captured the downside of an overbearing sales process. To quote him:

“Too many companies dress their sales team in monkey costumes and suck the passion out of them by having rigid cookie cutter sales programs.”

The reason I love this quote is that it captures the frustration that micromanagement can cause within a sales force. What causes that disconnect between management and their team? I believe most sales people see their job as an art that requires the flexibility to be creative to build trust and lasting relationships with the customers. Some managers tend to see sales more as a science, distinct activities leading to predictable results. They are both right. The question is how does management find a balanced sales process to maximize the productivity of their team? That depends on multiple factors unique to each organization including the makeup of the sales team, and the sales strategy of the company.

Sales Team Experience Level
Organizations that successfully hire junior level talent oftentimes have strong training programs and a well defined processes. For the inexperienced sales person this structure is embraced because it provides them a roadmap to success.  This structure is required since a junior team doesn’t have the benefit of experience to guide them. Successful managers that hire more senior level sales personnel still have some processes in place. However, they realize that experienced sales people require more room to take risks and be creative on how they approach their job.

Organizations need to ensure that their sales process aligns with the experience level of their team. Organizations that hire inexperienced sales people and do not provide structure and training will have longer ramp up times and increase failure rates. Similarly, organizations who hire experience personnel and have overbearing processes may inadvertently enable underperformance and drive away their most effective producers.

The Sales Strategy
In response to the changing market, staffing companies have adopted sales strategies that vary in their complexity. For example, staffing organizations that target large staffing programs have longer sales cycles and different types of client relationships to manage. A well structured process is necessary in order to coordinate resources and to manage a pipeline of long term opportunities.

Compare this to a staffing firm that targets mid market accounts where the sales cycle is less complex, but high volume prospecting is required to ensure a consistent flow of job orders. In that case enabling the sales team with qualified leads is crucial, but a complex sales process is not needed and can be disruptive especially for senior level sales personnel.

So the question of micromanagement in sales is a difficult one to answer. Sales personnel and the sales strategy are only two of several factors, but they are good places to start to ensure a sales organization achieves the proper balance of discipline and freedom to achieve its potential.