Managers, Loosen Your Grip On Salespeople

Several weeks ago, I took my five-year-old daughter ice skating. We circled the rink and took turns falling down. After a few laps, I regained my youthful balance, but my daughter was struggling. I kept holding her tighter and tighter to make sure she didn’t fall. However, she kept slipping and sliding and never gained her footing. She was frustrated and I was exhausted.

Then I finally realized it…The tighter I held her, the worse she did. She was using my grip as a crutch. She didn’t learn to balance, because she didn’t have to. Once I loosened my grip, she did great.

How many managers grip their people too tight?

Sales managers tighten their grip on salespeople with the best intentions, but it doesn’t help. Sales managers attempt to help salespeople by selling for their salespeople. On joint calls, they do the talking or jump in and save people from making a mistake. When sales managers tighten their grip on salespeople, salespeople cling on. They won’t stand on their own because they don’t have to. 

Help your salespeople help themselves by loosening your grip. Here are three tips to help you loosen your grip.

Let them make mistakes

It’s okay to fail. We learn from failure. Failure is a necessary part of success. Salespeople can only learn from their mistakes if they are given the opportunity to make mistakes. As a manager, your goal is to help them learn from mistakes, not prevent mistakes.

Observe on joint calls

Managers, on joint calls, your job is to observe. This is not your opportunity to close the sale or run the sales call. It may be difficult, but keep your mouth shut. As Yogi famously said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” Your purpose is to observe and provide feedback, not sell.

Teach self-reliance

Give them room to figure it out. Make yourself available for coaching, but teach them self-reliance. This gives your salespeople confidence. Too many managers complain about their salespeople. They will say, “I feel like a glorified baby-sitter.” If you treat your people like babies, they treat you like a baby sitter. Teach them to stand on their own two feet.

Salespeople learn from failure. Failure is the greatest teacher. This creates a management paradox, to prevent failure, let them fail. To let them fail, loosen your grip.


Paul Reilly is president of Reilly Sales Training, a St. Louis-based, privately owned company that specializes in training sales professionals, sales managers, and service professionals. Reilly Sales Training offers public seminars, in-house sales training programs, and hiring and training assessments. Call or e-mail Paul at 636-778-0175 or

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