Revisiting the Definition of ‘Micro-management’ with Today’s Sales Representatives

by Don Jasensky
creditmailIs 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?” Does this sound familiar?

Like many business students in the early 1980s I was heavily 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. The plan was then to 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!

passtimeNo 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 were on the right track to be closed;
  • And the importance of a salesperson getting help before a customer leaves.

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” ?

McDonald’s 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 the month.

At Automotive Personnel, LLC  we have been interviewing regional/district/area managers for 25 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.

factortrust-200x300Here 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 is on the phone. It’s a few minutes of their time, hopefully the talk is somewhat entertaining, motivating and informative. This is not a “beat up the reps” call. However, it ensures all field reps are up and working.
  • “We have $_______ to go to achieve our monthly goal and bonus – we need $_______ per day from each of you.”
  • Sales reps will have yesterday’s successes shared with 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 the day before, their plan for today and monitor their progress that day.  “Jim, you planned on stopping in at 10 auto dealers and you only logged in six, tell me about that.” “Bill, you only have eight 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 three things (usually via e-mail).

1) Who they called on and the results

2) Who they will call on tomorrow

3)  “What are you hearing”? Topics could include the competition, pricing, what dealers are saying, opportunities and problems, etc. This gets “street level information” up the chain.

Lessons learned: It’s OK for top sales managers to hold their reps accountable for sales behavior throughout the day. These efforts will lead to consistent success.

Some managers may label this “micro-managing.” Trust me, the managers who tell us they don’t talk to their sales force more than once a week are usually the ones calling us looking for a job!

Don-JasenskyDonald Jasensky is the founder and CEO of Automotive Personnel, LLC. It is in its 26th year providingautomotive-personel-200x300 executives, managers , and sales professionals to the automotive finance, aftermarket and automotive dealership industries. 800-206-6964×21,,