If there’s one group of employees in any organization that feels routinely stressed and unable to finish all the tasks on their to-do lists, it’s sales managers. In most organizations, sales managers take training and learn how to optimize the time they spend on each task. But that might not be enough. Leadership teams are beginning to realize that sales managers can’t accomplish their most important task, helping reps reach quota, unless they practice active time management and use AI-based sales coaching systems.
Practice Active Time Management
Dane Jansen highlights an interesting paradox about time management and the pandemic. Employees widely reported being able to get more done because they didn’t have to commute, and they had fewer distractions when they worked at remote locations. How can we explain why the average employee actually is now working 30 minutes longer every day in order to get the job done?
It turns out that many employees, sales managers included, have expanded responsibilities for making more decisions. Our research has found that young managers find comfort in group decision-making. These days, a decision to purchase a new piece of equipment or a software system may require the approval of six or more people. This trend reflects the conscious organizational trend to reduce walled gardens, but it also increases the amount of time managers spend on noncritical tasks. If you find yourself in this situation, try to objectively review how much time you should spend on these activities. You might not need to attend every meeting. Reviewing a summary email about what happened will take far less of your time, and you’ll still be able to ask questions and track what's happening. This behavior also helps you practice active time management.
Setting Office Hours
You can also more actively manage your time by setting guidelines for your reps. If your reps regularly interrupt you to make decisions, you should take two steps. First, establish “office hours.” Let your reps know that you’re available during this time to chat about questions they need answers to. Second, empower your reps to make more decisions on their own. If a rep is always asking you to proofread their email to important prospects, encourage them to sign up for a course on this topic. And then consider setting up a system in which reps can check each other’s work.
Not every situation will be so easily managed. If your reps took a sales skills assessment, they’ll know what they need to work on. And you do too. But taking time to consistently coach their discovery or closing strategy can blow up your schedule. Of course, you should cover these topics regularly in your one-on-one meetings.
But you can also require reps to interact with an automated, AI-assisted coaching platform that presents questions based on their area of need and provides content for them to review. Each time your reps come into your office, they interrupt the workflow to get an answer. If your reps are asking questions that they should know the answer to, train them to use a coaching platform that is personalized to help them improve their weakest skills. When every rep in your sales department takes accountability for improving skills on their own, you will have more time to spend on hiring new employees and updating the sales process.
Carter Cast, a clinical professor of entrepreneurship, believes that effective managers “[d]ecide which tasks will really move the needle for [their] organization, and focus on those first.” We all encounter the overflowing email inbox and spend too long looking for threads in the overloaded office chat system. Instead of reacting to the first item you see in your inbox or chat, make a list of the items that you feel are most important. Tackle those items early in the day if you know you do your best work in the morning. And to ensure that you’re not disturbed, set your email to poll every hour instead of every minute!
When you practice active time management, your reps will notice the example you set and do the same.
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