How to Empower Your Sales Team to Make Decisions

By Butch Bellah

As a sales manager, it’s clear that you work for the sales team instead of the team working for you. However, one of the biggest traps to avoid is to not let yourself be drawn into being nothing but a secretary for the sales team. And it’s easy to get drawn in.

As far as you can according to industry and company policies, provide your salespeople with not only the responsibility but also the ability to make decisions for themselves up to a certain point. Whether it’s pricing, terms, or other considerations, there is no way you can make every decision needed to operate a successful sales team. If you could, you wouldn’t really need all those salespeople.

One of your first orders of business is to provide your sales team with the tools, resources, and other data needed to make decisions. Otherwise you’ll spend your day on phone call after phone call discussing minute pricing details and so forth.

Two types of sales people a sales manager encounters

After you give your team members the resources to make their own decisions, you must establish parameters where they have the capacity to make good decisions — decisions that produce profitable results. With that you have two kinds of salespeople:

  • The doer.

    This person makes every possible decision. She makes commitments not only on areas you’ve given her authority to, but may well step over that in an effort to not let anyone stand between her and her customer. Your biggest challenge with this salesperson is to keep them reigned in; keep them from becoming a Maverick who is off doing their own thing regardless of company policy.

  • The thinker.

    No matter what you do, this person won’t make a decision. She wants your input, feedback, and endorsement on everything she does — before she does it. The thinker overthinks and develops the old paralysis by analysis on even the smallest decisions. Your biggest challenge with this type of salesperson is to have her understand this: “Done is better than perfect.”

How to manage the two types of sales people

Here’s where being a manager comes in. You must successfully handle both types – the doer and the thinker. Let the doer have enough room to maneuver but keep her from breaking ranks and encourage or prod the thinker to make a decision.

Let all team members know that if you have an issue with a decision they make you’ll sit down and discuss it in private. Never call a salesperson out in public. Praise in public and critique in private.

The only way your team learns to make better decisions is by making mistakes and having you tell them and show them how to better handle that situation in the future.

You have to do the same thing with the person making all the decisions. The doer will overstep her bounds at times, and you’ll have to let her know you appreciate her desire to satisfy the customer, but that she must follow proper protocol.

The bottom line is to empower your people to grow their sales and solve customers’ problems. Avoid creating a hierarchy where the simplest solution to a customer problem requires moving heaven and earth.