Is it time to revisit the definition of “micro-management”? I receive calls on a weekly basis from frustrated executives lamenting over the difficulty of finding good sales people. You may have heard it too : “This new generation does not want to work hard” – “They won’t put in the hours” – “They are not motivated” – “They don’t want to start in sales and move up”- “How do you lead them?” Sound familiar?
Like many business students in the early 1980’s I was very influenced by Tom Peters “In Search of Excellence” and similar treatises. I remember the counsel :
– hire the best people
– train the dickens out of them and then
– get the hell out of their way!
I couldn’t wait to become a manager and apply this formula. The concept of being a “micro-manager”was an appellation to be abjured at all costs!
Like many new managers I eschewed the confines of the management system I had to use with the auto dealership I was managing. I already knew that I wanted to hire the best – train the dickens out of them and get the hell out of their way! Then watch them soar ! However, like many young managers I quickly realized the weakness of this approach with most people. I had to learn why a proven system was really my best friend and to hold sales people accountable throughout the day. That was quite a paradigm shift!
No matter how hard we looked to hire “the best people” and no matter how well we “trained the dickens out of them” very few “soared” if they were not held accountable throughout the day for the tasks that led to sales success ; proper greeting, showing the car, getting little “yeses”, trial closes, etc. I learned the value of logging in every guest and making sure they were contacted within 24 hours with a “good news call”. I was learning the value of managing “sales behavior” throughout the day.
I learned the value of a proven system and timely accountability with:
– morning meetings,
– checking to make sure that daily appointments were made,
– open deals where on the right track to be closed,
– importance of a salesperson getting help before a customer leaves, etc.
I began to realize that most sales people perform much better if they know what they will be held accountable for and when. And “when” should be soon! I would have looked at this as micro-managing at an earlier time in my young career. Was I becoming the dreaded “micro-manager”?
McDonalds teaches its Store Managers how to consistently achieve extraordinary results with ordinary people. Their Store Managers master their system and keep workers accountable for their productivity throughout the day – not at the end of their shift.
At Automotive Personnel, LLC we have been interviewing Regional / District / Area managers for 20+ years. From our unique vantage point we have seen a distinct pattern of the very successful managers and how they lead their field sales force. Yes they seek to “hire the best” and they do “train the dickens” out of them. But they sure don’t “get the hell out of their way”. The behavior of the consistently most successful Regional Managers is what many would label “micro-management”. So maybe it is time to redefine “micro-management” with today’s Sales Reps.
Here are some of the things we see the top Regional Managers consistently do :
Throughout the day, they hold their Field Sales Reps accountable for their “sales behavior” not just their sales achievement. It is the day to day sales behavior that will lead to consistent sales success.
– Morning meeting – everyone on phone. It’s a few minutes, hopefully somewhat entertaining, motivating and informative. This is not a “beat up the Reps” call. However it insures all Field Reps are up and working.
– “We have $XXXXX to go to achieve our monthly goal and bonus – we need $XXXX per day from each of you”- (we up or down on goal?)
– Sales Reps will have yesterday’s successes pointed out to the group “Mary closed the “Jackson Auto group yesterday”. “ They have 22 stores that they can bring aboard”. “Great job Mary”
– During the day each Field Sales Rep will get one-on-one calls to review yesterday, their plan for today and monitor their day. “Jim you planned on stopping in on 10 auto dealers and you only logged in 6, tell me about that”. Bill you only have 8 calls set for today, that seems light since you will be in a metro area today – tell me about that…”
Jan what’s going on with the Airport Auto Group? Their contract has not been turned in yet. Tell me what your game plan is to close the deal.
– At the end of their day, each Field Sales Rep is required to communicate 3 things (usually via email)
- Who they called on and the results
- Who they will call on tomorrow
- “What are you hearing”? – competition – pricing – dealers are saying –opportunities and problems, etc. This gets “street level information” up the chain
The top Regional Sales Managers lead by example and spend much of their work week in the field – riding with their Reps and calling on customers. Top Sales Managers hold their Reps accountable for “sales behavior” throughout the day that will lead to consistent success.
I know many Regional Managers who would label this as “micro-managing”. The Regional Managers who tell us they don’t talk to their sales force more than once a week are usually calling us looking for a job!
Tips for interviewing Sales Managers
Probe these areas during the interview:
– experience (what will they need to learn to understand your industry/company/clientele ?)
– achievements and successes – (what significant improvements have they made in their area?)
– learn about their management style – do they follow a system ?
– probe to learn if they are “open to learning and adapting” to your system or are they going to try to change your system and install the one they know
To circle back to the original question, is it time to revisit the label “micro-managing”?