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How to Prioritize Your Time as a Sales Manager

By Ray Makela

In this episode, we discuss how to use a prioritization system to stop spending too much time stuck on urgent tasks, and more time on what's important—like coaching your team.

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***Enhanced Video Script ***

Most sales managers know they should be coaching their team. Yet we often hear in our sales training workshops that managers don't have enough time to coach.

This is a common scenario. Managers are doing a lot of the jobs for their reps, and they're spending too much time stuck on urgent tasks. They're answering every phone call. They're solving every problem. They're resolving those customer issues, and they're even closing deals for their reps.

So, do you want more time in your day?

Stop doing your rep's job for them. Instead, teach and coach your reps to be more self-sufficient.

In Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Successful People," Covey defines habit three as putting first things first. Prioritizing those things with the most significant impact and most leverage.

Invest your time in those activities that create the most significant return on your effort. Covey further defines this among four quadrants of urgent versus important.

Think of importance on the left axis and urgency on the right axis.

At the upper left are those things that are important and urgent. You kind of have to do them. The upper right is those important but not urgent. Lower left is not important but urgent. And the lower right is not important and not urgent.

The problem is we often get stuck in what Covey calls Quadrant 1, the urgent and the important. Those are the items that we must do today. These are things like client issues, closing deals, personnel problems, end of the quarter status, and competitive threats.

We often get pulled into these items by our reps, and we can't help but become the chief problem solver.

The more we do these things for the reps, the more we teach them to rely on us. We do have to resolve these, but how can we get out of this cycle?

Well, teach them to come to you with recommendations, as we discussed in a previous blog. Use them as coaching opportunities. Plan and improve your processes so that you reduce or cut the items altogether.

What we miss as we spend all our time in Quadrant 1 is the importance of Quadrant 2. Those important but not urgent tasks. These are things that are easy to put off, but important to becoming more productive. E.g., planning, and training, and coaching, strategy, and process improvement. Even personal items like exercise and professional development, and investing in relationships fall under Quadrant 2.

We need to create time in our life to have the discipline to focus on these activities every day. In return, these will reduce the number of Quadrant 1 activities we need to respond to. E.g., If we can coach and train our reps to solve their problems, it means we'll be spending less time doing their job for them.

Quadrant 3 activities are those that are not important but urgent.

These are things like unexpected phone calls, some meetings, interruptions, and hallway conversations. They don't have to happen, and they're not important, but somebody is demanding your time.

We need to decide if we're going to give in to that pressure and allow them to waste our time. It's great to have an open-door policy, but we need to manage our time and sometimes block out our calendars to get the strategic work done.

For Quadrant 3 activities, not important but urgent, we may be able to delegate or get others to fulfill these duties.

Can somebody do that meeting on your behalf? And can somebody else complete that report or respond to that email? If you didn't do this activity at all, would anyone notice?

Finally, Quadrant 4 activities are not important and not urgent.

These are time wasters. Many things fall under this category. These include spending too much time on the internet, YouTube videos, TV, social media.

Ideally, we'd like to drop these activities altogether and reduce the number of Quadrant 3 activities. That will give us more time to focus on Quadrant 2, the important but not urgent.

The key to becoming an effective sales manager is to focus on Quadrant 2 activities, important but not urgent. So make a list of these and block out those activities on your calendar and make time for them. Your time is valuable, especially when you think about the leverage you can create across the organization when it's used in the appropriate activities.

Don't let others waste your time and get distracted doing your rep's job for them.

Learn how to transition star sales reps into high-performing sales managers

About Ray Makela

Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.

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