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.