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3 Effective Ways Sales Managers Can Optimize Their Time

I’ve been training sales managers for the past 20 years. Before I deliver a sales management workshop, I always call and interview a few of the participants.

I ask, “What’s the number one problem you face?” It’s the same answer 99.99% of the time: “I don’t have enough time.”

The typical sales manager arrives at the office at 8 a.m. with a prioritized list of tasks for the day.

By 8:05 a.m., she’s checked her email and seen two urgent requests from salespeople, a message from the marketing department asking her to attend a 9 a.m. meeting, a note from the engineering team asking for feedback from customers, and a question from Sales Ops about the new incentive plan.

In other words, all roads lead to the frontline sales manager. The following three techniques will allow you to redirect your time toward the most productive tasks.

1) Scale Back Non-Coaching Activities

A sales manager’s time is disproportionately spent on non-coaching activities. Case in point: A Fortune 500 company asked me to review their sales manager job listing.

Eighty-five percent of the items were directly or indirectly related to sales coaching. The organization wanted managers who could maximize their sales team’s performance.

However, when I interviewed their sales managers, I discovered they were spending less than 10% of their time actually coaching.

Put another way, they were only devoting a fraction of their day to their most significant responsibilities.

According to a July 2015 report from The Sales Management Association, sales managers spend approximately 15% of their time coaching or developing salespeople.

Those at high-performing sales organizations spent significantly more time reviewing their reps and giving them direction on specific opportunities than sales managers at low-performing sales organizations.

There are three areas of potential time savings, according to the report: Managing internal resources, planning, and administrative activities.

A few quick tips:

  • Invest in sales enablement tools to cut down on administrative work and planning.
  • Delegate your budget and/or marketing requests to someone else -- or dramatically cut down on the energy you give them. You can have a bigger impact by meeting with two reps than trying to negotiate for more content with Marketing.

2) Don’t Take On Your Rep’s Problems

A salesperson who’s promoted into management tends to carry her action-oriented, decisive mindset into the new role.

Unfortunately, this works against her as a sales manager. When a rep comes to her with a problem, she’s inclined to accept responsibility for it.

However, she usually doesn’t have enough information to act right away. So she says, “I’ll look into it and get back to you.”

Now the rep’s problem has become her problem. The manager has essentially agreed to give him a progress report.

Instead, the sales manager should have asked her rep two questions:

  • What have you done about this so far?
  • What do you think ought to be done?

This tells the salesperson they’re accountable for solving the issue -- and that the manager hopes they’ve already taken action. They’ll be more prepared next time they ask her for assistance.

Plus, the rep has far more knowledge about the issue than she does. They might have even helped create it.

The final benefit to this strategy: The salesperson’s answer reveals whether this is a coaching opportunity. If they’re clueless about the next best steps, the sales manager can help them craft a repeatable strategy.

Watch the video below to learn more:

2) Track Your Time

Committing to spending your time more effectively is easy. Doing so is harder.

To ensure you follow through, spend an entire day tracking your time. I like tracking your time on paper rather than with a tool because it really drives home where you're misusing your time.

Every 15 minutes, ask yourself, “What was the most important task I worked on in that increment?” Write it down.

This exercise reveals which projects or requests aren’t productive. For instance, perhaps you spent 50 minutes in a non-sales meeting where you didn’t learn or contribute anything of value.

If those meetings are repeatedly unproductive, stop going.

Or maybe you’re always answering questions from the same group of salespeople. Chances are, the salespeople on your team who aren’t always raising their hand could really benefit from additional attention.

With this in mind, you might increase the hours you spend with them and decrease the time you devote to ad hoc coaching.

The more time you save on low-value tasks, the more time you can put toward helping your salespeople. Use these strategies to maximize your day.

Kevin F. Davis is the author of the new book, "The Sales Manager's Guide to Greatness," now available wherever books are sold.

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