Like all managers, Sales Managers encounter 10 Time Thieves that steal precious moments out of every day and impair the managers’ effectiveness.
The impact of these time thieves is multiplied when the role of the Sales Manager is vague and scope creep runs rampant. Sales Managers often absorb others’ duties and render themselves ineffective in their primary duties of managing sales and leading people.
If you are in any sales role, your time is particularly valuable and needs to be protected for work that drives sales. Lost minutes translate into lost revenue for you. If you’re in sales management, lost minutes ripple across the entire team and can be even more costly.
Sales Management Tips: What to Do If You’re Caught in the Hamster Wheel
These 10 Time Thieves are:
Interruptions and disruptions, including mental skips that come with multitasking
Meetings that are low-value, including those with information that’s better shared in other ways
Task work or recurring work that could be done by others
Indecision due to ambiguity or lack of confidence in how to proceed
Reactive problem solving (putting out fires vs. proactively preventing them)
Poor communication that results in rework, wasted effort, or poor outcomes
Working on the “wrong” things due to unclear priorities
Lack of planning and focused effort
Stress, anxiety, fatigue or burnout
Inability or unwillingness to say “no”
Maybe you recognize the madness of your current efforts to do all and be all. Maybe you’d like to step off the hamster wheel and seize control of your schedule. But how?
It requires the discipline to form new habits and recondition the people who work with you. They’ve grown accustomed to you doing all this work, and they may not know how to do it. This transformation won’t happen overnight. To get started:
1. Do one thing at a time.
Do it with a dedicated focus. You’ll get more done when you aren’t constantly making mental shifts or succumbing to the tyranny of the urgent (which, by the way, is almost always an exaggerated urgency).
2. Opt out of meetings that don’t require your input.
You can read the minutes or get the highlights in other ways. Languishing in meetings doesn’t produce more sales.
Learn how to delegate effectively and do much more of it than you are today. Don’t delegate indiscriminately. Instead, delegate with the purpose to develop others.
4. Be more decisive.
Admiring the problem instead of solving it (or at least attempting to solve it) doesn’t change anything. Over-analyzing and prolonging discussions about it won’t make it go away. Make a decision and adjust as you go.
5. Put your superhero cape away.
You can’t swoop in to solve every crisis every time. When people bring you problems, ask them what they recommend as a solution. Empower them to solve their own problems. Trust them enough to remain on the sidelines.
6. Get clarity.
When given an assignment, ask questions to be certain you understand exactly what’s expected. Find out what success looks like so you know where to aim. When giving work to others, be sure to give them clarity, too.
7. Set your priorities.
Stick to them so you don’t get off course.
8. Make a plan.
Even if you’re not a planner, give yourself a goal each day so you can stay focused and feel a sense of accomplishment. Waiting around to see what comes up is not effective management. It signals to the sales team that they can do the same.
9. Take care of yourself.
If you’re feeling burned out, take a vacation. If you’re stressed at work, figure out what the root cause is and try to address it. As you get your priorities straightened out and focus on long-term, proactive ways to improve your results, you’re less likely to experience the same level of anxiety and fatigue.
10. Just say “no” to the invitations, requests and opportunities that don’t fit your priorities.
You need to be effective and productive in your job. If something comes up that doesn’t develop your team members of provide them with a way to increase revenue, seriously consider saying “no” so you can say “yes” to the things that do.
You may not be able to make all these changes at one time. Start with one. Master it and move to the next one. Every incremental improvement counts!
How to Reallocate Your Time Effectively
When it comes to time management, most of us evaluate the efficiency of time spent by the volume of work processed or completed in a time period. That’s because, of course, a manager’s effectiveness is generally measured by the team’s output. For Sales Managers, revenue to goal in the current period is the primary metric.
This is short-term thinking. It’s a trap that will keep you mired in time-stealing activities that erode employee engagement and development. This kind of thinking will prohibit you from achieving sustainable growth. It will keep you doing sales vs. managing sales.
That’s why we need to reframe the way you think about your own time allocation. You need a philosophy of time management that liberates you to lead people. Leading people is the best way to manage sales. You’ll start by placing the responsibility for work production back on the front-line employees who report to you or support sales. That includes sellers -- the ones who should be doing the work of selling. It also includes administrative personnel who could be running reports, marketing team members who could be doing analysis and product development, HR staff who could do more to help with recruiting and interviewing job candidates, and so forth. You can’t do it all. You are only one person.
To build the business, you have to build the people on your team. You’ve got to put people first or you’re not going to last.
These three questions are the people-first way to allocate your time:
1. Consider whether or not you’re adding value in any activity you spend time on.
One clue that you’re diminishing value rather than creating it is if you are doing the same work you did in a non-management role. If you’re doing the same work as your direct reports, you’re actually holding the organization back. Selling is not your job. You are no longer a front-line contributor. You need to let go and begin adding value as a manager and leader. Teach people to sell so they don’t need you to do it.
2. Start each day with a mission to help someone grow.
Measure each day’s accomplishment for yourself by asking “who grew today and how?” To lead people AND manage work effectively, you’re looking for daily, incremental growth in the capacity of your team. If every seller could be just a little more effective each month, imagine the cumulative effect in just six months.
3. Spend less time thinking about WHAT needs your attention.
That kind of thinking will always be task-focused and short-term. Think instead about WHO needs your attention in order to grow and thrive and contribute more to the team’s overall effectiveness.
This philosophy or guiding principle about allocating your time as a People Leader will help you set priorities and do a better job of focusing on what really matters. Your team will make more sales once you enable and ennoble them with skills and then get out of their way.
How to Let Others Know About Your New Priorities and Time Allocation
This isn’t about you being a diva. It’s about you, your team, and your organization being more successful. You may have to give up a sale or two in the short term in order to build for the long term. If you put people first, it will be worth it.
Be sure to let others know about the benefits of the changes you’re making. They are significant. For example:
1. You’ll improve employee loyalty and engagement.
Less turnover of salespeople means less recruiting, interviewing, hiring and onboarding. It means fewer lost sales opportunities and more satisfied customers. You’ll contribute to expense savings in all those areas PLUS drive higher profits. A study by the American Management Association found that 33% of senior executives believe employee loyalty has a direct relationship to profits. In a Gallup study, highly engaged business units produced 21% greater profitability. Temkin’s research confirms these findings -- “77% of employees in companies that have significantly better financial performance than their peers are highly or moderately engaged, compared with 49% of employees with lagging financial performance.”
If you’d like to access more research about employee engagement and the myriad benefits that accompany it, click here.
2. You’ll strengthen the team.
Making revenue goals won’t depend on your availability as a mercenary closer. When the sales team can make those sales without you, you have scalable growth. You also get longer term benefits as the company can rely on more people with expanded capacity. Together, this raises the ceiling on revenue growth potential.
3. You can contribute in higher level, more strategic ways.
When you get out of the grind of day-to-day task work, you’ll be able to see a bigger picture. You can be more involved in analyzing and responding to changes in the marketplace. You’ll be able to stay a step ahead of your competitors. You’ll have opportunities to determine a course of action vs. constantly playing catch up to make numbers one period at a time.
The Trick? Keeping Up the Good Work!
Once you make a change, don’t revert to the old ways of doing things. Yes, you probably can do some of that work better and faster. But remember, it will always be that way unless you make a change. Real leaders don’t hoard the work. They enable and ennoble others to do it instead.