Consulting with many sales managers over the years, the most common complaint I’ve heard is, “I simply don’t have the time to complete everything”. On the surface, one could attribute the increased time pressures on managers to technology, more direct reports, or increased customer demands. But under the surface I’ve been able to identify three areas managers typically “mismanage”. Properly addressing these three areas will result in more efficient time management for managers and as well as helping sales reps become more effective.
- Be the answer guide. Managers often think that they will save time by providing the answers to their sales reps questions and challenges rather than encouraging the sales reps to take the time to find their own solutions. This usually back fires in the long run because the reps become dependent on the manager to solve their problems rather than developing problem-solving skills. Develop a predictable management style where you lead with questions rather than answers. Ask these or similar questions: What do you think we ought to do? What are the pros and cons of that solution? What are other alternatives? This approach helps the sales rep develop possible solutions to a problem before coming to you and this approach also invests the sales rep in the solution and increases accountability.
- Manage sales activity. I often find sales managers using valuable time measuring activity rather than results. I see managers holding reps responsible for numbers of calls, product presentations and proposals delivered rather than measuring progress by buyer milestones. Examples of buyer milestones are the buyer asks to tour your facility or they ask you to help develop their RFP/RFQ criteria or share information and data that signals you are the front-runner. I have found that generally, most managers don’t develop their people because they’re too busy managing their activity. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. Managers should focus upon achieving results through people—also known as coaching. Coaching is the fastest way to gain near-term results, while at the same building long-term sustainability.
- Spending too much time with marginal/low performers. If managers spend all their time with the marginal sales reps it leaves little time to work with and develop those reps with high potential – those that have potential to improve or take on bigger assignments. When time is limited, managers need to spend their coaching time with the high potential reps and use their time with marginal performer to clearly define the performance requirements and set-up a plan to monitor their performance. Those marginal performers who fail to meet the performance requirements should be channeled to areas that match their strengths. Managers should not continue to pour valuable time into individuals who are better suited for other responsibilities.
Making adjustments in these three areas will not only make you a more efficient manager, but a more effective one as well.