During a conversation with some well-recognized leaders in the sales-improvement space, the topic turned to ways that sales managers spend their time. Generally, most spend it poorly, responding to internal demands and other distractions that prevent them from inspiring growth.
My contribution to the conversation was to share the idea that “being pulled is a choice,” an idea I will vigorously defend from any and all attacks.
Where Does the Time Go?
In a workshop, one participant shared the results of his time audit, a simple assignment that anyone can do by simply writing down the time at which they started some task, what they accomplished, and at what time they finished. As he shared his results with a group of peers, he stated that he thought he never had enough time until he realized that some of the tasks he had accomplished should only have taken fifteen minutes, but he was distracted and had wasted two full hours.
That time multiplied by 220 workdays is eleven full weeks.
Hours feel cheap, and weeks feel expensive. Unfortunately, hours make up days, which make up weeks, which means hours aren’t as cheap as we believe they are. Were you to keep a running score of the time you waste, you would cringe when adding another two hours to the hundreds you already wasted.
Time treats all of us exactly the same: rich or poor, man or woman, sales manager, or salesperson. It relentlessly ticks away, no matter what you decide to do with your personal allotment.
Too Much to Do. Too Little Time.
There is never going to be enough time to do all of the things that you want to do or that other people will ask or command you to do. You have only enough time to do what is important to you—what is most meaningful. These are priorities.
At some point, when you recognize that things are going to have to be left undone, you can come to peace with the idea that some people are not going to get what they want when they want it. You are also going to realize that you will disappoint some people when you refuse to do something, and you will also have to have difficult conversations with some people on your team, many of whom sit above you on the organizational chart.
Those who are unclear about their priorities tend to trade easy, transactional tasks and to-dos for the complex, complicated, difficult outcomes, especially ones that require solving the difficult problems that involve dealing with other human beings. What is always interesting to look at is how little value the ticky-tacky, transactional tasks create.
Get Your Own Damn Report
Your senior leader asks you for a report on your team from your CRM. Yes, the very CRM that you share with your senior leader. Either one of you can very easily generate the report your senior leader needs, and there is no doubt that you report to this individual, and you hope to have a very positive working relationship with him or her.
Unless your senior leader is going to base your evaluation on your responsiveness when they ask you to do tasks that create no value, tell them to get their own damn report!
Well, maybe you don’t have to say it like that. You might be better off saying something like, “I am in the middle of coaching one of my best reps on that big deal we are working on. Is the report important enough that I should drop this and let him go without a good strategy, or can you pull it from the dashboard yourself?”
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Keep giving him a fish, and pretty soon, you have a competent person who is now a dependent. Make him fish for himself, and don’t even teach him. If he made it to a senior leadership position, he had better be competent enough to pull a report without asking for help. At least not help from you.
The main idea here is exaggerated by the “competency” problem. When you are super competent, as anyone wise enough to read this blog must surely be, problems, big and small, seem to find their way to your desk. The client who your operations team can’t seem to get under control and who is at risk requires someone with people skills to turn things around.
The task for you is to review a better way to better manage expense reports and who needs your input to help them decide what to do. All these things take you away from what you are supposed to be doing as a sales manager: leading growth.
Being Pulled Is a Choice
There is an old saying that “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” You never want to be a busy person; you want to be a productive person, one who is achieving their most important goals and outcomes. “If you want to get somebody else to do something for you, don’t ask a productive person, unless you want your request rejected before you can finish your request.”
Being pulled in different directions, and in the wrong direction, is a choice you make. The many things that need work on your sales team, from improving their skills and their effectiveness in helping them win deals, should never command your time and attention.
None of this is to say that you should not be a team player, but rather, you should play your position. Your role as a sales manager is to grow sales, something that is critical to the organization and all the people that make up your company. None of this is to say you must always say no to any request, but instead to encourage you to say “no” more often, and especially when doing so will deprive the major, difficult, and most important outcomes of your time and attention.
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