When we ask sales managers about what’s the number one problem that you face? The answer in every instance is the same. “Not enough time”. So ask again: If you had more time what would you do with it? Answer: I spend more time coaching and teaching my reps but again I don’t have the time.
Not having enough time to coach your salespeople is a huge problem. According to the research, sales managers that don’t spend enough time coaching their sales people, have fewer sales people who are at sales quota. That means their sales turnover goes up so they have to spend more time interviewing to fill the open territories. And then the sales people that they bring on, take longer to ramp up to sales quota. It’s a vicious cycle that depresses sales results.
So when it comes to time management I’m the first to admit that not every distraction you encounter as a sales manager is within your control. Your boss could Call you and says; “here she needs a report by five o’clock today okay?” I get that, you got to do that. But I also hear other problems from sales managers like this one. Suppose you have somebody that stops by your office, a sales rep who says up; “Hey boss. We’ve got a problem”. Notice their use of the pronoun “WE”. And most managers will then go on to listen to that problem and then at the end, because we don’t have enough information to make a decision. We say to the sales rep let me look into it and I’ll get back to you.
And in the blink of an eye, two things have just happened which are typically associated with a subordinate in a relationship as below:
1. You accepted a delegation from your sales rep.
2. You agreed to provide them with a progress report.
This is one example of how we sales managers shoot ourselves in the foot. We love being problem solvers and so everybody gives us their problems. The trouble is we end up operating in a reactive mode. We come into the office with a great plan for the day at eight o’clock and by eight fifteen we’ve been hit with two incoming issues. And before we know it, it’s five o’clock and we spent all day long solving other people’s problems.
So how do you make the switch from being a reactive firefighter to a proactive sales coach. Here are three suggestions.
Strategy number one, is to hold others, accountable for solving their own problems. The next time one of your salespeople comes to you with the problem, ask them what I call the two magic questions. What have you done about it so far? What do you think ought to be done? Pretty soon you’ll notice your salespeople will come to you and say; “Hey boss I’ve got this problem and I’ve come up with these two solutions and I think solution number two would be better what’s your opinion”. Wouldn’t that be a better place for both you and your team to be. And consider also when you’re asking your salespeople these questions you’re turning this problem situation into an opportunity for a coaching conversation.
Strategy number two. Tame the email monster. Ask sales managers what they spent on average? Two hours every day sending and receiving emails. Well that’s over five hundred hours a year of their time. Staring at a computer screen doing a task, that has virtually no impact on the sales effectiveness of their team. If they could reduce that five hundred hours a year down by a third. They would get back over twenty full days of coaching time every single year. So the suggestions for taming the email monster are terribly sophisticated. You already know them. Here are a couple.
- Check less frequently. Many sales managers have this pathological curiosity to know what was the most recent message they receipt. But it distract you from what you should be focused on.
- Set team standards that include and or end in the email subject line. No reply necessary.
- Sent shorter emails yourself. If you send long emails, so too will your sales people. If you send shorter emails. Your sales people will follow that example as well.
Strategy number three. Every sales manager understands the value of having a to do list. But I ask you, what is on your to don’t list. What are the things that you need to stop doing. Pull out a piece of paper right now and make a list of the ten things that you have been doing in the past that you need to stop doing going forward. That’s one way to get more time back, for coaching your sales people.
Everyday you face a choice of whether to be a reactive firefighter or a proactive sales coach. And in that choice lies your leadership destiny.