Girl Power! If you remember this quintet, then you remember the sugar-pop anthems they brought to us at the turn of the century. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was capturing a cult following at the same time, a slightly-built teen tracking down and eliminating vampires in Sunnydale, California.
The term used to summarize this movement was Girl Power! Young girls were taking charge, charting their own paths. They weren’t going to be pushed around anymore–they were empowered! Empowerment was about motivation, about purpose, about action.
When we use the term empowerment in the corporate world, it often is a word that is more about rhetoric and fear than it is about a progressive approach. Why do executives talk about empowerment but fear it?
Managers associate empowerment with the loosing of authority and the losing of control. They close their eyes tightly and see visions of Spice Girls and Spice Boys running amok, making crazy decisions with no oversight.
When it comes to managing the salesforce, too often we err on the side of micromanagement and control, especially in times of difficulty. Senior management asks for more reporting. Pricing decisions move away from the frontline and into headquarters. Customers figure out that working around their salesperson is the best way to get their own way.
The ideal empowered sales force is one where sales management and executives spend their time being close in support of the frontline rather than demanding more from them.
Management focuses on the key aspects of empowerment: empowering the sales force with data and information, with relevant skills and tools, and with feedback and coaching. This requires a closeness to the field from management and support organizations where common challenges are quickly identified and prioritized, where salespeople are coached up after quick mistakes rather than punished.
Empowerment is not for the faint of heart. It is PhD level Sales Management, to give up a portion of control while giving more to those serving the customer and driving the business.
Want to know where your business is on the empowerment scale? Fly to Madrid, Newcastle, Shanghai, or Cleveland. Ride with a salesperson, speak with customers offline. Ask them how many times their salesperson can quickly help them and how often they have to go back to someone else within your company to make a decision.
Then ask how well your competitors do this.