Sales Management Doesn’t Have a Clue

As a sales training coach and consultant for entrepreneurs, owners, and managers of sales organizations, I continue to be amazed at how little they know about how their salespeople spend their time. When I ask managers the question, “where do your people spend their time”, the response I most often hear is, “I don’t have a clue”.

Accountability is the most difficult and second most important job of a sales manager. Only hiring and recruiting is more important. The gathering of real information about what is going on in the field should be at the top of every manager’s daily activity.

Why is this so important?

Truth be known most salespeople are undisciplined, lazy, and notoriously poor planners and managers of their time. This has been confirmed by a study at Columbia University, in which, thousands of salespeople were tracked, and it was determined that the average salesperson was productive only two hours out of an eight-hour work day. If this is true, then what in the world are they doing with the other 75% of their work day? And more importantly how much more productive could they be if they got organized and had a plan?

Why does this issue exist?

It exists for several reasons: first, managers are oblivious to what is going on in the field because they spend most of their time shuffling papers, compiling reports, and attending meetings instead of getting out in the field with their reps on a daily basis. Secondly, many managers intuitively know this is going on but they don’t have the courage to confront the issue and deal with it. They would prefer to ignore it and hope it goes away.

Third, most managers are poorly trained and ill-equipped to skillfully handle this and a myriad of other important sales management functions. Fourth, many managers themselves are no better at personal discipline, planning, organization, and time management than the people they are trying to lead.

What’s the solution?

The big picture solution is that companies need a sales management operations manual that spells out the roles and responsibilities and gives each manager the tools to do their job. Secondly, managers need intensive training on how to perform their job.

A simple solution for the time management issue is to have each sales rep keep a time log and account for their use of time. This log should be broken down into fifteen-minute increments and sales reps should be required to turn this into the manager at the end of each day or each week.

I realize that many managers will resent having to do this because they perceive this as babysitting or micromanagement. If you have any of these feelings you need to get over it, and realize that most of your people are incapable of self-management at this point.

If managers fail to accept this responsibility they will continue to have poor or mediocre production from most of their sales staff.

Wes Schaeffer

As usual you hit the nail on the head, Steve. The scary thing is that this is not a “small business” or a “corporate” problem. It is systemic across 98% of the companies with whom I come into contact regardless of the industry, region of the country or size. That is why there are so few “great” companies and it’s also why the “great” ones become so dominant and memorable. The good news is that most people in sales and sales management can raise the level of their games with a little investment of money and/or time. The traits the great ones all have in common is ambition and a drive to continue learning.


There’s no debating the time managment issue. I see it all the time…the thing is that when you ask/force a person to account for their time there is a good, no great, chance that they will lie. No sales person is going to admit they took a long lunch so they could run a couple errands–yet we all know it happens. People will put down on paper what they meant to get down, what they plan to get done.
I think that instead of managing time, we should be managing goals. Example: On Monday I will make 5 cold calls. I’ll follow up on clients X, Y and Z. I’ll complete paperwork task A. etc.
Then on a daily (or weekly) basis you can track what you’re doing and more importantly, what you’re putting off. Now you can see what you have to work on without feeling like Big Brother is watching.

Steve Clark


If you have sales people lying to you there are bigger issues than time management. Usually, it means that the sales people don’t trust management and don’t feel that management gives two hoots in hell about them personally. You may not be like that, but I assure you there are a lot of managers that would be guilty of this.

That being said, the purpose of having sales people do a time log is so that they discover for themselves just how horrible their time management skills are. It is a personal development exercise that the open minded and motivated sales person will be willing to engage. If they are not willing to engage in this exercise in introspection then perhaps you have the wrong people on board.

Live Life to Fullest

Advantageously, the post is actually the best on this precious topic. I agree with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your future updates. Just saying thanks will not just be enough, for the phenomenal clarity in your writing. I will directly grab your rss feed to stay privy of any updates. Gratifying work and much success in your business endeavors!

Comments are closed