In Praise of Micromanagers

There’s no mistake in that headline: micromanaging is good. Really, good. In fact, it’s essential to success in sales. To understand why, let’s start with a story.

A client of mine had a VP of Sales whose team was struggling to meet their sales targets. Quarter after quarter, they kept falling further behind. When the CEO understandably started asking questions including details of how he expected to get the team back on track, the VP’s answers only made matters worse: “I’m not a micromanager,” he explained. “I’m a hands-off guy.” It was no surprise then why he was let go soon after that conversation.

When you are in a position of responsibility, being hands-off means, you have no way of holding yourself or your team accountable. If you do that, you’re essentially handing your job over to your sales team and letting them manage themselves. People need to be managed for a reason.

Micromanagement gets a bad rap because it’s often equated with nagging. There’s far more to it than that. When done properly, micromanaging is about worrying about the small details: the kind nobody else will bother with because it’s not their job to do so. It’s about asking tough questions: especially the ones your team is hoping you won’t ask because the answers might create more work for them!

The need for micromanaging won’t just go away because you feel it’s at odds with how you like to work. If you’re a sales manager and you’re not asking hard questions from your team and expecting them to do, the work you’ve agreed to do how in the world do you expect to respond yourself when you’re put to the test by your CEO? And you will be.

So, get hands-on. Summon your inner micromanager. Here’s how…

Know the data

When you ask probing, purposeful questions of your team, you get to the heart of how they’re performing. And you match that data up with the data that shows where they are supposed to be. Finding gaps in that data is your job. That’s why knowing the data is crucial. What’s their current conversion rate? What’s the state of your organization’s sales pipeline? How do those measure up with your targets? Unless you can get direct and satisfying answers every time, you’ll just be taking blind shots in the dark when you’re asked to report on your team’s progress.

Know your people

Micromanaging in sales is tightly integrated with coaching. The more you do it, the better you understand your people and the sales territory they’re operating in. Mastering both of those is fundamental if you want to be a top-performing manager. You can’t have a decent grasp of your business or of someone’s individual performance unless you know what’s closing and what’s not, about where the trouble spots are, and what’s being done to remedy that situation.

Know the facts

If you’re managing someone and you just take their word for it that they’re doing their job properly, you are out of your mind! Trust and verify, always. A little healthy dose of paranoia goes a long way. Holding people accountable, following up on the status of agreed tasks and asking questions means you’re not just making assumptions about what’s working well in your business. It also means you zero-in with facts—not guesses—about what’s not working and why.

Micromanaging is absolutely vital in sales. It’s not nagging. It’s part of the job when you’re paid to manage people, to worry about targets, and to solve problems. All the best sales managers out there today are masterful micromanagers. That’s not a coincidence. Sales management is a science. And like all science, it operates on facts and hard questions, not assumptions and good wishes.