Sales Leaders: How to Effectively Delegate Sales Tasks and Assign Projects

effectively delegate sales and assign projects to your sales team

Identifying and Establishing an Effective Sales Delegation Process 

As a sales leader, you’ll want to spend time reviewing your process for delegating sales tasks and assigning projects. If you want to make your team as effective as possible and free yourself to address the problems only you can address, then you’ll want to learn how to delegate effectively so that each member of your team can expand their skill set and be coached through the process.

Eventually, every member of your sales team will bring you a problem regarding a project or a goal you’ve assigned them and ask for assistance. How you respond to them will determine your involvement level and who owns the challenge. Your goal is to get them to take ownership of the project, including the problems that come with it, while instilling confidence and supporting them. 

One of the biggest challenges we see with new sales leaders is how they respond to their direct reports when these situations arise. 

How you respond will play a major role in where the responsibility and accountability will be placed. Generally, the responses we’ve seen fall into three categories, and they determine how effective you are in having your salespeople take ownership of the results of their effort.

Here are the three kinds of responses you can use when your salespeople bring you their challenges. Two of them are commonly used because they are easy, short-term fixes. However, only one is effective at helping your sales team achieve breakthrough results.

Responses that Determine if You are Delegating Sales Tasks Effectively

1. Examples of Responses Indicating You are Taking Back the Responsibility You Previously Delegated to Your Sales Team

When your salespeople come to you with a challenge concerning a project you assigned to them, the easiest mindset to assume is that you have all the answers and that the responsibility of the sales manager is to provide those answers. Here are some examples of statements indicating you are adopting this mindset:

  • Let me think about it for a bit.
  • I’ll let you know when I have a free moment to take a look at it.
  • Leave it here. I’ll take a look at it in a moment.
  • Let me check with some of my sources and see what they come up with.
  • I’ll draft up a couple of ideas and give them to you in a bit.
  • After I finish dealing with this review let’s sit down and discuss some options.

We call this buying back the assignment. With responses like these, you are assuming all of the responsibility and absolving your sales team of all accountability. 

If you assign the members of your sales team a monthly quota to hit, these kinds of responses guarantee that you are now responsible for them reaching that quota. 

With responses like these, the assignment remains with you, not with the salesperson. There is no progress on the project until you do something to make it happen. Worse yet, the members of your team won’t ever grow from the experience. 

In summary, you still own the project or assignment, and you are responsible for the outcomes.

2. Responses that Put the Project or Task in an Uncertain State

The next option is another one we see a lot with first time sales managers. The new sales manager will inadvertently put the project in an undetermined state with no deadlines, and no discernible responsibility. Here are some examples responses that indicate you are kicking the can down the road or into someone else’s backyard:

  • Send me a memo and we’ll take a look at it when I get around to it.
  • Check with engineering. I think they saw something like this.
  • Draft up a proposal and then let’s talk about it.
  • See me later about this.
  • Let me know if I can help with contacting people for you.
  • We’ll have to do something a little later. I’m busy right now.

Statements like these inject ambiguity into the assignment and put the project in a state of uncertainty. Here, you may have defined the desired outcome, but there is no identifiable plan of action or discernible activity that moves anyone closer to reaching the defined outcome. And it isn’t clear who owns the task, the problem, or the outcome.

With phrases like these, accountability is muddied. Decisions are delayed because ownership is unclear. You’ve succeeded in delegating only a part of the task or project because clear accountability is not defined.

3. Responses that Indicate Effective Sales Delegation and Establishes Accountability

The mindset that is the most difficult to assume is one that takes responsibility and accountability for the project out of the hands of the sales manager and puts it into the hands of the salesperson to whom the task has been assigned. 

The following are examples of statements that leave responsibility and accountability on the salesperson:

  • I know you can do this.
  • I’m counting on you to see this through.
  • I gave this project to you because of your expertise with these types of systems.
  • What are you going to do about this issue?
  • What’s your plan for moving the project forward?
  • I know you will get this done.

With these kinds of responses, you are holding the salesperson accountable. You have defined the outcome. More importantly, the responsibility for its completion remains with your salesperson. Your statements reinforce your position and belief that you have chosen the right individual for the job. With statements like the examples above, you clearly indicate that the individual is still accountable for the results. Progress on the project is more likely to occur without your intervention.

Adding a Follow Up Step in Your Sales Delegation Process Reinforces Accountability

Here are some additional ideas that you can employ when following up on the task or assignment you delegated to your salesperson:

  1. When following up, include predetermined, desired results
  2. Follow up should include predetermined and communicated performance standards
  3. Include key performance indicators that connect to the performance standards
  4. Include flexibility to change due to current and updated information
  5. Make it a win-win situation for everyone involved

Remember, when your salespeople bring you a problem, you want to stay positive, focus on the desired outcome, and reinforce the abilities of the individual. You don’t want to buy the delegated task back or put the process in an unknown state. 

To be an effective sales leader, you want the accountability and responsibility to stay with the assigned team member. And you want to give them the support and encouragement they need until the task or project reaches completion. This liberates you to address the challenges that only you can address while allowing your sales talent to reach their full potential.

That a win-win for everyone involved.

The Human Sales Factor

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