The #1 Obstacle Sales Managers Face & How To Overcome It

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For the past 20-plus years, I’ve made it a habit to ask sales managers, “What is the biggest challenge you face in becoming the best you can be?”

The answer is always the same: not enough time.

The simple truth is that all of us have the same amount of time in a day. Yet some sales managers seem to have plenty of time to coach their reps and others don’t.

As Peter Drucker, the well-known management consultant, has said, “You can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself.” I agree with him; the topic of time management is really an issue of how you allocate your priorities.

This point really hit home when a Fortune 500 company asked me to review the job description for its sales manager position. I determined that about 85% of the responsibilities were related to sales coaching.

During in-person interviews with this company’s regional sales managers, however, I asked, “What percentage of your time do you spend doing one-on-one coaching with your salespeople?” Not one of the sales managers gave a figure of greater than 10%.

The disconnect is obvious. The managers in this company were making choices about time and priorities that led them to spend at most 10% of their time on what should have been 85% of their responsibilities.

Almost every sales manager I share this data with can relate. We’ve all come into the office with a great plan for the day, only to get an urgent call or text that puts us off track. For the rest of the day we chase other people’s problems. Suddenly, it’s 5 p.m. A lot of to-dos were crossed off of other people’s lists, but our so-called priorities are untouched.

I can’t dictate how much time you should be devoting to sales coaching and rep development. Maybe it’s 85%. Maybe it’s only 25%.

But for the vast majority of managers, it should be more time than they’re spending now. To become a great sales manager, they have to start making different choices so you can spend more time on rep development —and thus create teams that develop, thrive, and produce great results.

If you think you need to spend more time coaching, here are two approaches to try:

  1. Hard wire coaching time into your daily schedule. Have a standing appointment, for coaching, some time before noon every day. Rotate which of your reps fills that time, and do NOT break those appointments no matter what else is happening.
  2. Reverse the way you start off each day. Instead of responding to emails, texts, etc., and then deciding how to spend the rest of your time, start each day by identifying your #1 priority for that day. (I would argue that almost always that #1 priority is to provide developmental coaching to your reps.)  Pay attention to that #1 priority until it is finished, and only then check your calls and texts and emails.

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Kevin Davis

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness”, which was named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!”.