Here are three simple time management tips for sales managers that can help managers to stop getting bogged down by distractions – so managers can focus more on high-value tasks- like sales coaching – that grow sales results.

When I ask sales managers in my seminars “what’s the #1 challenge that you face?” the answer is always the same – “I don’t have enough time.” Then I ask, “If you had more time, what would you do with it?” And they say they’d like to spend more time coaching salespeople.

I’m the first to admit that some of the things you have to do are out of your control such as requests from your upper management to attend meetings or submit timely reports.

But I also hear other problems like this one: Suppose a sales rep knocks on your door either in-person or via the phone and says, “Hey boss, we’ve got a problem.” Notice the rep’s pronoun choice, “we’ve” got a problem, not “I’ve” got a problem.

Most sales managers will listen to the problem, and then because they don’t have the necessary information to make a fast decision say, “Let me look into it, and I’ll get back to you.” And in the blink of an eye two things have just happened that are typically associated with being a subordinate in a relationship:

  1. The manager accepted a delegation from the sales rep.
  2. The manager agreed to provide the rep with a progress report!

Operating in a reactive mode such as this – taking responsibility for problems that salespeople should solve themselves – is not good for you or your team. Leading your team in a reactive mode only leads to one, all too familiar outcome: You come to the office with a great plan for all the things you want to focus on and then BOOM! – you get an incoming problem, then another and another and before you know it, it’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon and you just spent all day addressing other people’s priorities.

Here are three time management tips for sales managers that can help you recapture the time you need to build a top-notch sales team that grows sales.

Ask the two “magic questions” that engage reps in solving their own problems.

The next time a sales rep approaches you with a problem, listen but do NOT offer your own ideas or allow yourself to be dragged into the drama. The goal should be to help that person figure out a way to deal with the problem on their own. I do this by asking the sales rep what I call the two magic questions:

  1. What have you done about it so far?
  2. What do you think ought to be done next?

Pretty soon you’ll notice that your salespeople will come to you and say, “Boss, I’ve got a problem and here are my two best solutions.” Now then, wouldn’t that save you some time?

Expect your reps to figure out some problems on their own.

A former colleague, Penny, was once the director of sales training for a Fortune 100 company. Before leaving for an exotic vacation, she left a voice mail greeting that said, “I’ll be overseas for two weeks and unable to respond to either voice mail or email. If this is important, please speak to my assistant.” When she returned from vacation she discovered 93 voice mails! One series of messages was from Joe, one of her regional sales directors. It began two days after Penny left on vacation:

Day 1: “Penny, this is Joe. We’ve got an URGENT crisis here. I need to speak to you right NOW! Here’s my phone number, cell number, home phone number, wife’s cell number. Call me right NOW!”

Day 1 (later): Joe leaves Penny another “urgent” message.

Day 2: Joe calls a third time. “Penny, we’re making some progress here, but I’d still like to talk to you.”

Day 3: The fourth message from Joe: “Ahhh, Penny, I think we’ve got it under control. Call me when you get back. Have a nice vacation.”

There are times when the best thing you can do for your salespeople is to not be there for them. This is another benefit to you of spending more time working with and coaching salespeople—you can’t solve everybody’s problems because you’re busy coaching.

Think about your “To Don’t” list, not just your To Do list.

Managers who are good at controlling their time have a good idea of both what they are going to do each day and what they are NOT going to do. Things on their “To Don’t” list often include responding to everyone else’s problems like answering every single call or responding immediately to all their emails.

Every day you face a choice of whether you will be a reactive firefighter whose time is lost by seemingly urgent distractions, or whether you will be a proactive sales leader whose time is deliberately spent on coaching salespeople, so they continually improve. In that choice lies your leadership destiny. Don’t let yourself get caught in this reactive trap! Make coaching your strategic priority.

Here’s my advice in a nutshell: Don’t allow your salespeople to control your time!

Identify the time wasters holding you back from regaining control of your time and building a top-notch sales team by downloading our FREE proactive sales coaching tool, 5 Things Proactive Sales Managers Do Differently.