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Delegate and Deliver

Top producers delegate. They have to. They know that they need to concentrate on the most critical customer activities, the ones for which they are most uniquely qualified. Top producers know they can't get it all done themselves and still be top producers. You can delegate tasks to an assistant, to other professionals, or to a team. The bigger the sales you work on, the more you need to delegate. If you work by yourself, you will limit how much you can sell. If your vision is to grow your sales as if it were for your own business, treat it as if it were your own business. A Fortune 500 company couldn't run if the CEO tried to do everything. The only limit to your growth is how big your dream is and how effectively you enlist others to help you reach it. Don't get stuck in the mundane. It won't help you achieve greatness.

Answer yes or no to each of the following questions to get a quick assessment of your attitude toward delegation.

  • Do you ever find yourself doing work that someone else could or should do?

  • Do you ever find yourself doing work rather than taking the time to explain it to someone else?

  • Do you ever do work that should be done by someone else because you want to make sure it's done correctly?

If you answered yes to two or three of these questions, you could become more productive by delegating more. You might immediately think, "But no one works for me. I don't have anyone to delegate to." In this age when salespeople often work without any assigned office administrators, that is a legitimate concern. But there are alternatives.

An example of an opportunity for delegation came up as I prepared a presentation for a client's national sales meeting. One of the salespeople I interviewed said that when a customer call came in for a quote on a specific service, he would calculate the pricing himself rather than passing that call to the service people. Calculating the pricing wasn't something he needed to do. Once the account had been won, the service people could handle specific orders. Winning the account was his job. Of course, keeping it was his job also, which is where some of the uncertainty arose about when he should or should not help serve the customer.

There were several reasons he calculated pricing for the customer on a specific service. First, he wanted to make sure the pricing was correct. Second, he didn't want the customer to feel slighted. Third, helping this customer was something that was easy to do, easier than going out to face rejection—a form of procrastination. Unfortunately, while he was in the office helping this customer he wasn't out developing new business. If this were an isolated case it wouldn't matter. But when it happens several times or repeatedly, it means that this salesperson is not doing what he should be doing. He was doing someone else's job.

If he were to pass the call to a service person, his way of explaining this delegation to the customer would be critical in maintaining the customer's trust. The best way to handle situations such as these is to make sure customers are aware of the possibilities in advance. Once the account has been won, the salesperson can let the customer know that the service people will be helping him with specific pricing questions in the future.

The best way to convince customers that this is the best course of action is to tell them the benefits of doing it the way you are suggesting and explaining why it is in their best interests. (Typically, if they save time or avoid communication or technical errors, they will willingly accept the explanation.) You could say something such as, "I very much appreciate your business. I am going to go over your account with my service people, who have the expertise to help quickly and accurately with the specific pricing on each service. They also will help you if something comes up that you didn't anticipate. I will be staying in touch with you to make sure that we are providing service to your satisfaction and to see what new services may be of benefit to you. And, of course, you can always call me if there is any problem that you feel you aren't getting resolved through them. Does that sound like a good approach to you?"

Alternatively, if the salesperson didn't alert the customer about this arrangement in advance, the first time the customer calls in with a request the salesperson could get the service person on the line at the same time with the customer, introduce the customer to the service person, and have the service person either figure out the pricing with the salesperson on the line (if there is anything unusual about it) or have the service person speak directly with the customer. In either case, the customer gets the help he or she needs and the salesperson can use that time to go find other customers to help. Obviously, you don't want customers to feel as if you are putting them off, but to know that you want them to get the best service possible.

Delegation doesn't have to be all or nothing. That's the kind of thinking that prevents people from considering delegation in the first place.

Why don't salespeople delegate? First, they don't think they can because they don't have anyone working for them. But they can ask service and marketing people to do what they are supposed to do, when they are supposed to do it. In this way, the salesperson can do what he or she is supposed to do: sell.

Second, they may be afraid that they will be held accountable if they delegate a high-profile task to someone who doesn't do it right. That's a reasonable fear. But they also believe that if they are held accountable they will suffer dire consequences, such as a loss of prestige, responsibility, and possibly a job. They take it to an extreme and see themselves on the street and jobless because they delegated this one assignment. This may not be rational, but fears are often irrational.

So what should you do when you delegate? Here are three important steps.

  • Prepare the person you will delegate to. If needed, get the person the correct information about the current products or services the customer has.

  • Be clear with the person about what the boundaries are to that authority. For example, do you want the service person to call the customer directly and inform you?

  • Be certain to agree with the person about what will be done and when. (Customers' calls will be returned within twenty-four hours, for example.)

Returning to our example, if the salesperson is unsure that the service people will be able to handle the pricing, he could meet with them when an account is won and go over any special arrangements they need to be aware of. If the service person was new, the salesperson could ask the service person to let him review any pricing on the first occasion or two or when specific circumstances arise. The salesperson could follow up with the service person and review the account periodically to ensure that the pricing is being handled correctly and to see whether there are trends or patterns in the customer's purchases that he should be aware of. In this way, the salesperson has assurance that the customer is getting the right pricing and service while also leveraging his time to work with other customers. He can introduce the customer to services that the customer could take advantage of. That creates a win-win outcome.

The less time you spend on service, the more time you can spend developing business and selling. That's the benefit of delegating.

Micromanaging Is Tempting, Time Consuming, and Ineffective

Have you ever been micromanaged? Have you ever felt you had to micromanage someone else? In either case, it is not a positive experience. How does this come about? What can you do to prevent it? What are the alternatives?

There are several reasons that people start to micromanage. They micromanage when they concentrate on activities instead of results, when they observe what people do instead of measuring what they accomplish. This problem often is rooted in the goal-setting process, when goals aren't clear, specific, or realistic, or aren't set at all.

Regardless of how someone comes to the point of micromanaging, it isn't good and it shouldn't continue. It should instead be replaced with a results-oriented goal-setting process and measurement of progress at preagreed milestones. Couple those actions with positive reinforcement of accomplishments and over time you won't need to micromanage someone.

Instead of thinking that you have to manage someone, think about how you need to communicate with that person. Think about how to make sure you and that person share the same understanding about what has to be done and why. Also, think about how you can influence this person to want to do what has to be done with the best possible quality. Think about how you will seek to understand the concerns and requirements that this person has. Anticipate how you will respond to his or her ideas and suggestions.

You don't need to make all the decisions. Just be aware of when you need to be involved and when it is better to not oversee work.

The three keys to avoiding micromanaging your sales efforts are to:

  • Get agreement on the specific results you expect, when they will be ready, and how you will measure their quality.

  • Build in checkpoints at agreed-upon milestones.

  • Make sure everyone has the resources and skills needed to do the job.

When you are working with someone who is relatively new, you may need to ensure more oversight at first, which may mean more frequent checkpoints. When you work with someone who is experienced, give more autonomy but always maintain good communication with that person; if you find more direction is needed, you can always give it. Approach this in a relaxed yet focused manner and other people will be more receptive, more relaxed, and more focused. They will reflect your frame of mind. A leader inspires people to do great things. No one manages people to do great things.

When Tom Hanks was filming Saving Private Ryan, the cast went through rigorous military training. After enduring this for some time, the cast approached Hanks and said that they had had their fill of it and were going to stop. Hanks called the director, Steven Spielberg, and told him about the situation. Spielberg told him, "You're a leader. Figure it out." Hanks went back to the cast and simply said to them, "If you think you can portray these soldiers the way they really were, then go. Otherwise, stay." Everyone stayed.


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