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Your Employees Rule (or at least they should)

A bit of warning before we go any further: on the surface this is going to look like an ordinary get-some-support-staff-for-your-salespeople letter.  Resist the urge to go there as I unpack how autonomy is the most powerful force you have in your business.

The answer to getting the most out of your employees is the easiest, yet scariest thing you will ever do — let them decide.

Here’s what a traditional sales role typically looks like:

  • Rep is expected to develop relationships with key accounts, identify sales opportunities, and put together deals.
  • Also responsible for entering all weekly activities, i.e., meetings, phone calls and all respective notes into company’s customer relationship management (CRM) software.

There is only one problem with this scenario — most sales people can’t stand documentation.  It is the bane of their existence.  After come cajoling and back-and-forth with leadership, the sales team gets a support person to help with the data entry part of the job.

Here is what the revised roles look like:

  • Sales reps – see people and write deals.
  • Support personnel – enter meeting notes, track details and handle paperwork.

From here  let’s introduce two of the company’s top salespeople – let’s call them Frank and Michelle.  Frank fits well into the new system because he hates anything that looks like paperwork.  Frank would rather be out on the golf course with a big prospect any day rather than being trapped behind a desk.  Frank actually lobbied heavily for the new support person, so, of course, he’s loving the new arrangement.  Michelle, is a different story, however.

Michelle came into sales after having spent 5+ years in marketing, so she knows what customers want.  Michelle likes the pressure of performing and keeps her own score card.  After the sales jobs were redesigned to account for the new support staff, Michelle now feels like she has less time to track her own score.  Just last week she decided to take time to do her own numbers, but was caught by one of the members of the sales management team.  She was reminded of the investment in the new support person and encouraged to hand off to her score tracker to the new support person.  Michelle now gets her scores, but they are at least a week behind, half the data she wants is missing and the report is no longer in a format that she likes.  The new system appears to be working well for Frank, but Michelle is quite demotivated because her touchstone — her own version of the score tracker — is gone.  Not only is it gone, she is actively dissuaded from doing the work herself.  Without this touchstone, Michelle’s work started to slide to a point where she was no longer a top performer.

Let Them Do What They Want

Autonomy is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.  This isn’t about designing jobs for a department.  It is about designing jobs for individual people.  People who bring their own likes, dislikes and preferences to a role.  In order for Frank to do his best work he really needs to have a support person handle the details.  Michelle needs to have her hands on her score tracker every day.  Once Michelle was able to break the ice with her leadership team, she was able to get control of her sales tracker.  Less than a month after the change, her numbers started to climb and her performance has fully recovered.