How leaders can identify when to step in with sales staff, or take a step back

By Henrik Troselius - August 09, 2018

Being a manager in sales organisations today has many challenges. Not only do you need to plan and delegate sales activities and roles to your team, but you need to ensure that your staff feels supported and inspired. Being a modern manager helping staff through the sales process means to also be a leader, though for many, this can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, sometimes being a leader actually means knowing when to take a step back, and help your team learn by doing.

When leaders should step in

The best leaders are those that staff know they can rely on when need be while being given freedom and independence. By being strategic about when you step in to assist a sales member though, you can show that you are supportive and encouraging, not undermining or overbearing.

  • When staff are making promises they can't keep - Occasionally sales staff can be a little overzealous when it comes to trying to close a deal. While it's important that if staff make a mistake, they try to remedy the situation themselves, but sometimes you may need to step in to ensure you don't lose a customer forever.
  • When staff are unsure or don't know the answer - It's never a bad thing to admit when you don't know something, and if sales staff are faced with a question they can't answer, they shouldn't try to make something up to customers. When they are stuck, they should know you are there for them to help when needed, especially to avoid a situation like above where they are making promises they can't keep.
  • If there is an offensive or belligerent customer - For whatever reason, sometimes customers in shops or on the phone can become angry or aggressive. Your staff are likely taught methods of de-escalating issues, but sometimes it's not always possible. If you are present, step up for your employee, seek to find what has gone wrong, and if there is a way that you can mediate. Especially if the customer is insulting or offensive, you need to show your employee that you have their back and will be supported by you.

When leaders should step back

It can be tempting to always help or correct your sales staff when you see something going less than perfect. But this isn't leadership - it's micromanaging. Give your sales staff space to help them learn skills for problem solving and personal improvement.

  • When staff are solving problems they have resources for - Your sales staff have likely gone through training and education to learn your products, services, and policies. In many cases, they are given a library of resources while being trained that they can refer back to, and perhaps there is even an internal database for answering questions and addressing particular scenarios. If this is the case, don't be so quick to jump to their rescue. Problem solving is a crucial skill in sales, and allowing staff to figure things out on their own will help them gain confidence, and ensure their personal accountability.
  • When they are trying to close with a fickle customer - If you come to the rescue of your staff when they are having trouble closing a deal, they'll never learn how to triumph and improve in their sales techniques. They may lose a few customers as they're learning, but it's natural they should improve over time. They don't need you to hold their hand, they need you to provide feedback and show them you have confidence in their abilities. Stepping in to make the sale may only make them feel that you don't trust them, or believe in them.
  • When there is opportunity for growth and learning - Encouraging staff to self-identify problem areas and room for improvement ensures that they are self-aware and holding themselves accountable. When you're giving your sales staff the opportunities to grow and learn to improve their performance, you can ensure that they are owning their own sales process from beginning to end. While as a leader, you can teach others by example, but independence and responsibility are keys to improving sales performance.

Managers in sales organisations must find the balance between getting involved in sales activities, and stepping back to allow staff to flourish on their own. Leadership means being supportive and reliable to your employees, but also allowing them to learn and grow on their own. Since assessment and improvement is a crucial part of the sales process, you can help your sales staff help themselves by knowing exactly when to step in, or take a step back.



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