Is Sales Management Still Broken? “Hands-On” vs. “Hands-Off”

I recently posted a question on Paul Castain’s Sales Playbook LinkedIn discussion group about the “Ideal Sales Management Style”. The responses varied, with the majority concluding that a combination of  “hands-on” vs. “hands-off” was the best solution. I agreed with that analysis. I am with my 7th company in 16 years of corporate life, so I have a very good idea how I like to be managed, and how I manage now.

I had no intention of discussing this thread on my blog until I saw the comment below. I received this startling entry from Kevin Dankosky about two weeks ago, and it has really stuck with me. I will abstain from my opinion, rather eagerly anticipating your take on his incredible story!

“Funny this question comes up. I went to visit an old childhood friend for lunch last week and we were talking about his career in health care sales. He is about 15 years my junior. Let me predicate this by saying that I’ve always more of hand-off type of sales manager who is very selective about his hires, trains them well and then treats them like gold – 99% of the time they do a great job.

So we are having a nice lunch and he gets a text message from his boss reminding him (and the other regional sales people) of the daily conference call at 1:00 (it was 12:30 at the time). We are having such a good discussion at lunch we run a little late so at 12:58, while taking me back to the airport, he has to put the conference call on in the car through the radio.

I was shocked, the sales manager has everyone check in .. Joe here, Mary here, Larry here, Curly here .. then the meeting begins. Details on all the main target accounts, timelines on closing deals, number of sales calls made today, number of cold calls made, etc. Fortunately I got to the airport (20 minutes later) before the end of the call.

I was shocked. If I were a sales rep and that occurred on a daily basis, I’d go nuts. In addition to having been a sales manager and sales person, I’m also a coach and teacher. I think it’s up to you as a sales manager to know each person on your sales team and find out what makes them “click”. Some will need more hands on attention while others need just a nudge.

Regardless, if you feel the need to “ride” them each day, you either don’t have confidence in them or you have a power obsession. Again, if you hire the right person, train them well, support them and treat them well, the rest will fall into place. I guess that’s a long way of saying I’m more “hands-off”. – Kevin Dankosky

Oh yeah, if you love sales and business and you are not a member of Paul Castain’s Sales Playbook Linkedin Group, what are you waiting for? Here is the link:

No spam, no personal promotion, 30,000+ members. It is the best place to hang out that I have found and it has changed the way I sell and manage.


About Tim Mushey

Dynamic and energized sales rep, mentor and leader since 1999. This blog will be about sales, social networking, personal branding, leadership, music and having some laughs! Don’t be surprised if I mix it up on occasion, and talk about something totally different! I thrive on being part of successful, forward thinking teams. I am ready to go from the moment my feet hit the floor each morning, with the expectation that new adventures will be coming my way. It is rare that there isn't a smile on my face, as I take it all in, and have some fun along the way!

Posted on August 16, 2012, in Business, Leadership, Management, Sales, Sales Management and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Without going into very specific detail, I’d say I side with Kevin. Each person might need slightly different management – maybe all within the same general approach, but different just the same.

    I guess I subscribe to an approach that trusts people, after they know the plan/strategy. People will exceed your expectations if you let them. If they don’t, the solution is simple – more training or help them off the bus.

    • Good Morning Douglas. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I love all of your points, and the word TRUST jumped off the page for me.

      On that note, I cannot wait to eventually post a story that I heard once when an employee was confronted by their boss about what time they were at their home office. The only way they could have known either way was by spying. Talk about FIREWORKS!

  2. Moosh, great post and an interesting story. I am totally on board with what Kevin said. I am very fortunate to have a sales team that is the best of the best! They are all Sales Rock Stars and as such I treat them that way. As far as a management style, I have an achievement oriented participative style. I value each and everyone of them and strongly encourage them to express their opinions and fully participate in the process. We are truly a team all with a common goal of mutual success. Regarding the hands on / hands off approach, being that I love the sales game and love being in the field with my folks, I would say I am hands on. Although I let them run their business and only coach and counsel when and where appropriate.

    • “Zim-Meister”! Nice to see you back here! I know that you are incredible busy so I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

      Just a great reply. I love it. The fact that you are hands on, but let them run their business and coach when appropriate is key. When managers manage everyone the same way, or the same in every situation, that is when the trouble starts. You know your team obviously and you are loving you job which is fantastic!

      Have a great weekend.

  3. Hi Tim,
    This is a great question you have asked. About thirty years ago, I landed my first sales position with a UK company who just set up operations in Canada. I was hired on as a “Junior” rep and every junior rep had to report to a senior (more experienced) rep.

    There was one senior rep, we will call him Fred, who was a dynamite mentor and every junior person wished they reported to him. He drove his junior reps hard but they all liked the guidance and attention Fred gave them.

    Then after about two years, the junior reps would start grumbling about the micro-managing style of Fred. After about three years the grumblings grew to such a level that the reps would search for other territories to sell in or worse, other companies to sell for.

    Fred was a great salesman and a wonderful mentor, at least at the beginning of one’s selling career. Fred’s natural management style was that of a micro-manager. This worked for reps who were very new to the business and needed step-by-step daily guidance. They were not thrown into the ocean to sink or swim with Fred. Fred took care of them.

    Fred’s shortcoming was not realizing his natural management style, where it was effective and when he needed to change to adapt to the needs of the junior reps.

    We all have a natural management style. The challenge is to know when to change your style to suit the evolving rep or changing situation.

    In conclusion, I suggest you learn to understand your natural management style and then learn the other three and when to use them. You will get much better productivity out of the ales team.

    • M.J. – I really appreciate you taking the time to send such a lengthy reply. I think we can all learn a lot from it. You certainly need to understand your natural management style, but be open to deviate when necessary.

      I have seen great teams fall apart just because a manager did not know when to adapt their style.

      Sometimes people feel comfortable knowing how to react in every situation ahead of time, but management is not one of them. You need to be able to think on your feet, and adapt and change when necessary. Easier said than done, but I learned very early in my career that everyone needs to be managed differently to a certain degree, because everyone is different. ( I know sounds simple)

      We cannot paint them all with the same brush!

      Thanks again.

  1. Pingback: Leadership Articles for August | simplifypersonalproductivity

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