February 12, 2013 By Ken Thoreson
Recently I posted a question in several forums in my LinkedIn groups asking “What are the top three challenges for sales managers?” The feedback provided a variety of answers, but the number No. 1 response - and, in fact, it rated Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in some discussions - was time management.
From what I’ve seen, the life span of a sales manager’s job is about 18 months. This is typically due to the fact that sales managers must juggle salesperson issues, quota achievement, middle and executive management demands and all the necessary business management elements of the role of a sales leader. Now, if you top that with the reality that very few sales managers have ever been trained properly or seen a successful model where all the pieces of successful sales management work, then you can understand the chaos that results in many partner organizations.
I have found that typically the sales management role is a weak link in many organizations and as we work to solve the time management problem we then begin to resolve the other elements that are not working properly.
What do we hear during our partner consulting engagements?
“How can I be better focused so I can handle all the things that come my way every day?”… “There has to be a better way for me to manage my time”… “My company seems to want me to do more with less! So, HELP, how do I do more with less?”… “It seems impossible to manage home, kids, work and a life…”
What happens is that the sales leader becomes unbalanced either attempting to hold everything together professionally, losing their personal perspective along the way, or the stress causes them to lose energy and make poor decisions. One problem drives the next until a change must take place and the cycle begins again.
We have several recommendations:
Plan effectively and plan for chaos. What do I mean? Sales and sales training meetings must be defined with agendas and organized 90 days in advance. This single hour of planning - that’s how long it should take - ensures organization, proper content and eliminates people not showing up for training and development programs, skipping them because “something came up.” Don’t over plan your days because problems will arise and you must react to situations. Set your one-on-one meetings at 7:30 a.m., before you get distracted.
Get things done. Weekly and daily “to-do lists” must be updated or re-prioritized each evening. Make it a goal prior to leaving home. Start the day with a plan.
Don’t accept every problem. Inexperienced sales managers build their to-do list with every problem that every salesperson or marketing person brings to them. This makes them feel important but, the end result is the list gets longer and less time is available to accomplish the action items. This is where the emotional conflict begins between the salesperson and the manager because inevitably the sales manager can’t get anything done and the frustration grows and the energy drains, both for the sales manager and for those working above and below the sales manager. Don’t let this happen. Learn to say: “what is your recommendation?” so that these people take the first crack at a problem before you tackle it.
Education. Without a mentor or the prior experience of a successful sales manager, many Microsoft partner sales managers and executives struggle. We recommend visiting or benchmarking other partner locations to see how they are running their organization. As a VP of sales for a channel organization I actually started a national sales management association. Twice a year I brought my channel partners together to collaborate, share and cooperate on common sales management challenges. Our DVD series offers over five hours of training. You should also consider reading a book on time management.
Don’t re-invent the wheel. Many managers spend too much time creating new tools, sales programs or operational process documents. Ask others what’s worked for them.
Set goals: What are the top two things you must accomplish each day? And what are the major goals for each week. Be clear and focused.
We all have the same amount of time each week to achieve our objectives. One of my mentors worked four days a week and enjoyed Fridays on Cape Cod - and he was a partner and VP of sales for a large partner organization with multiple offices. If you can successfully prioritize you will accomplish more than anyone else in your office and outperform everyone.