7 signs of sales team micromanagement and what to do instead

Posted February 7, 2022

By Cari Murray

Senior Editor at Outreach

Raise your hand if you’ve ever worked for a micromanager. 👋

If you shot your arm straight up, you’re not alone. According to the Harvard Business Review, 59 percent of employees said they’ve worked for a micromanager. Among those respondents, 68 percent said it decreased morale, and 55 percent said it impacted productivity.

This probably comes as no surprise. Instead of motivating employees to work harder, micromanagement causes people to perform at a lower level. Some employees even report that it makes them want to do the bare minimum to earn their paycheck — and then look for another job. In fact, micromanaged employees were 28 percent more likely to consider leaving.

As a sales leader, you want to keep your high-performing reps happy and help new or underperforming reps find their stride.

How can you empower them to succeed without overseeing their every step?

Read on to spot the seven signs of micromanagement and what to do instead.

The Myth About Micromanagers

Picture a micromanager. What comes to mind? Maybe a manager standing behind an employee’s desk, telling them exactly what to do? In today’s digital world, micromanagement looks a little different. In fact, only 7 percent of employees said they talk to their managers daily, according to Gallup. Most employees (28 percent) actually said they only talk to their managers a few times a year.

Interestingly, even employees who said they receive negative feedback from their managers said they wished they got more feedback.

Today’s micromanager is someone who wants things done their way, but doesn’t give enough context, support, or advice. Communication is a constant struggle for managers operating in a digital sales world.

  1. Managers who refuse to delegate
  2. Managers who ask for account updates all the time
  3. Managers who insist they be copied on every email
  4. Employees who are hesitant to share opinions
  5. High turnover rate among high-performing reps
  6. Every single decision requires managerial approval 
  7. Sales team’s work is frequently overhauled

Often, micromanagement is the result of company culture rather than a single person. One employee told NPR that she previously worked for a company where accountability awards were given to coworkers who told management when an employee came in late, left early, or took a long lunch. She quit after six months.

The best way to determine if micromanagement is a problem? Ask employees. Just know that they may be reluctant to share feedback candidly. To encourage honest feedback, send out a companywide survey where responses are anonymous.

How to Empower Employees Without Overpowering Them

Coaching is one of the most important job responsibilities of a sales manager. Their sales, social and communication skills, and experience can help guide experienced and new reps to perform at their full potential.

However, it’s all about the execution. Studies show that management effectiveness and company culture matter a lot to sellers. In fact, sales people rated these two factors higher in importance than base compensation and commission or sales title. One thing that hinders both management effectiveness and company culture? Micromanagement.

Instead, try to help reps grow through guidance. Here are some ways to do that:

Deliver on-demand confidence

Managers want their reps to deliver the best pitch possible and exceptional customer service, even when they aren’t around to provide guidance. Using Outreach's knowledge AI assistant, Kaia, you can empower reps with the answers they need, the moment they need them. Kaia delivers real-time guidance to your reps during phone and Zoom calls with buyers. On calls, Kaia takes real-time meeting transcriptions — and it has the power to understand what’s being said in the moment. This allows your reps to access the information they need to answer buyer questions as they arise.

For example, a buyer might have a price objection. The rep might be unsure how to respond, but Kaia pulls up a Content Card highlighting the benefits of the product and why it’s worth the investment. One of the key benefits might be that the solution helps managers onboard new team members faster and increase team productivity by 30 percent. The seller has the information they need to quickly address the objection and move the conversation forward — without a manager’s intervention.

Delegate more

Lack of trust is a key component of micromanagement. When managers don’t trust their team, they feel the job can’t be completed without their intervention. The result is a team that doesn’t feel empowered to do their jobs — and managers who are so bogged down by the details, they can’t focus on the bigger picture. By delegating more, managers show they trust their team’s capabilities, and their time is freed to focus on strategic company opportunities.

Using Outreach, managers can review active deals by stage to see how the rep is working it. They might notice that a particular opportunity is a big deal. However, there aren’t enough prospects on the account and there isn’t a next step on the schedule. In minutes, the manager can assign a task to the rep to re-engage the deal in a broader, multi-threaded conversation across many key stakeholders. It’s a hands-off way to provide clear feedback, without doing the work for them.

Recognize your team’s successes

Only one in three workers say they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past week. Employee recognition is a low-cost, high-impact way to improve company culture and retain top performers. Specific positive feedback is often better than a general “good job” when deals close. To gain that insight (without micromanaging), you might use Buyer Sentiment Analysis. It allows managers to drill down into buyer responses to seller communications in order to determine what percentage were positive, objections, referrals, unsubscribes, or other responses. This is much more insightful than focusing on vanity metrics like response rate, which only tells managers the rate at which buyers responded, not the meaning behind those responses. With this newfound knowledge, managers can acknowledge reps in team meetings who received high positive response rates to emails they personally crafted.

You might look for key moments during past calls using automatic meeting transcriptions from Kaia. Maybe a seller had the perfect response to a competitive comparison question — and you want to give them kudos publicly. Managers can also ask the rep to tell the team about their approach and why it worked. Afterward, you can continue to spotlight their success by adding their exemplar example to a Content Card, Sequence, pitch deck, or another sales play so the whole team can benefit from their sales savviness.

This shows high-performing reps that their hard work is seen and valued, allows them to help train other reps, and motivates the team to achieve more positive results.

Ready to empower your sales team to perform their best work? Learn more about Kaia or request a demo of Outreach today.


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