How to Prioritize Your Time as a Sales Manager
Learn how to use a prioritization system based on Stephen Covey's principles; to stop spending too much time stuck on urgent tasks and find more time for what's important—like coaching your team.
Sales Managers: Get Out of the Management Time Trap
Most sales managers know they should be coaching their team. Yet we often hear in our sales training workshops that managers need more time to coach.
This is a common scenario. Managers are doing many of the jobs for their reps, spending too much time on urgent tasks. They're answering every phone call. They're solving every problem. They're resolving customer issues—and even closing deals for their reps!
If you want more time in your day then stop doing your rep's job for them. Instead, teach and coach your reps to be more self-sufficient.
Put First Things First
In Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Successful People," Covey defines habit three as putting first things first. This means prioritizing those things that will make the biggest impact and create the most leverage in your life. Then, invest your time in those activities that create the biggest return on your effort. He further defines this with levels of urgency and importance. Check out the chart below which plots the level of importance on the left axis and the urgency on the right axis.
Stephen Covey's Habit #3 for Highly Success People: Put First Things First
Q1 (upper left) are those things that are important and urgent.
Q2 (upper right) are those items that are important but not urgent.
Q3 (lower left) are those items that are not important but urgent.
Q4 (lower right) are those items that are not important and not urgent.
Quadrant 1: Don't Get Stuck Here
According to Stephen Covey, we often get stuck in Quadrant 1. These are the important items that have to be done today. 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 sales 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 items, but how can we get out of this cycle?
Teach your sales reps to come to you with recommendations instead of problems. Train them to use the SBAR framework, which shows them how to take ownership of problems and solve issues independently. Use these situations as coaching opportunities. Plan and improve your processes so that you reduce or cut these issues altogether. What we miss when we spend all our time in Quadrant 1 is the importance of Quadrant 2.
Quadrant 2: Easy to Put off but Critically Important
Quadrant 2 are the important but not urgent tasks. These are easy to put off but critically important to becoming more productive. Things like planning, training, coaching, strategy, and process improvement. Even personal items like exercise, professional development, and investing in relationship-building all fall under Quadrant 2. We need to create time and have the discipline to focus on these daily activities.
Focusing on these activities will pay huge dividends in the future. And, Quadrant 2 activities help reduce the number of Quadrant 1 activities we need to respond to. If we can coach and train our reps to solve their problems, we'll be spending less time doing their job for them.
Quadrant 3: Do You Really Need to Do These?
Quadrant 3 activities are those that are not important but urgent. These include unexpected phone calls, 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'll 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 finish the strategic work.
For these not important but urgent activities, we may be able to delegate or get others to fulfill these duties. For example, could someone do that meeting on your behalf? And would someone else be able to complete that report or respond to that email? If you didn't do this activity at all, would anyone notice?
Quadrant 4: Skip the Time Wasters
Finally, Quadrant 4 activities are not essential 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, and social media. Ideally, we'd like to eliminate 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 activities.
Sales Managers Can Work Smarter, Not Harder
The key to becoming an effective sales manager is focusing on Quadrant 2 management. Focusing on the activities which are essential but not urgent. Make a list of these and block out time for the activities on your calendar, and make time for them. Your time is extremely valuable, especially when you think about the value and leverage you can create across the organization when it's used on the appropriate activities. Refrain from letting others waste your time and get distracted doing your rep's job.
Do you want your sales managers to work smarter and reclaim valuable time?
The Sales Readiness Group is here to help. Our expert facilitators collaborate closely with your sales managers to teach them how to build, manage, coach, and lead high-performing sales teams. Imagine what your team could achieve with the right guidance, tools, and skills. Don't wait; let SRG help your team reach its goals. Schedule a complimentary consultation today.
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is the General Manager of the Sales Readiness Group, A Part of SBI. 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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