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Are You Spending Your Management Time or Investing It?

1 Nov, 2015 By: Troy Harrison, Salesforce Solutions

The word “investment” and the closely related word “spend” really do have heavy bearing in the world of sales management.  According to Webster’s, ‘invest’ means to “expend money with the expectation of realizing a profit or material result” while ‘spend’ means to “pay out money in buying or hiring goods or services.”  Note the difference:  When you “spend” it’s without expectation of achieving a profit.  Thus, we turn to the question of spending your time vs. investing your time. Here’s a simple checklist to help you understand what is which:

  • After a work session with a sales rep, are his skills improved?  I had the opportunity to make joint calls with a client’s salesperson.  I had made joint calls with him three years ago where he was teetering on the edge of being released.  Since then, the manager has made a project out of him, dedicating at least a half a day per week to working with him.  What’s the result?  Well…. Nothing much that I could see.  His skills hadn’t improved to any measurable level. He’s still not asking the right questions and fumbling in his ability to present to a customer, missing buying signs and probably burning sales left and right.  Yet his numbers border high enough that he’s no longer in danger of being fired. We’ll get to the “why” of his numerical improvement in a moment, but first, here’s the moral of this story:  If your salesperson’s skills are improving when you work with him/her, you are investing your time.  If not, you are spending your time.
  • Are your joint calls focused on teaching the salesperson how to sell, or are they focused on just helping the rep get the deal?  Here’s the “why” of the above point.  It’s true that the salesperson’s numbers have improved.  The reason – which the salesperson admitted at the end of the day – is that the rep’s sales manager is going on many important calls with him so more deals are getting closed.  The sales manager is basically closing them himself – taking over the sales calls and making the deals happen.  If you do this, you might think that you’re doing your job and benefiting the company, but you’re not in the long run.  If you’re staying silent during joint calls and using them as a coaching opportunity, you’re investing your time.  If you are selling for your rep, you’re spending your time.
  • If you took your hands off the salesperson, what would happen?  Back at the office, I began probing the rep’s sales and activity records for the past three years, and cross-referenced them with the sales manager’s vacation and travel schedule.  When the sales manager wasn’t there, the rep’s activity levels dropped nearly in half, and he rarely made deals when the manager was gone.  The manager was doing much of the work for the sales rep who came to rely on him to close deals.  If, after some time under a manager’s tutelage, the salesperson can function independently, you have invested your time.  If not, you have spent it.

In the review meeting with the company owner and the sales manager, I gave my detailed analysis of the situation.  I was asked by the sales manager if the salesperson should be put on a PIP – a Performance Improvement Plan (probation).  I said, “That’s up to you. “ But then, turning to the business owner, I said, “The sales manager should definitely be put on a PIP.”  Both jaws dropped.

“Here’s why,” I said. “You (the sales manager) have told me that you’ve spent at least four hours per week over the past three years with this person.  That’s over 600 hours of your time.  You’ve done that not to improve the salesperson’s skills or performance – they haven’t changed – but to save yourself from having to make a transition (or new hire), and perhaps because you liked him so much.  That’s an incredible misuse of time and resources, considering that you have seven other reps who do not receive that level of attention.  You should be put on a PIP, and then how you handle improving your own performance is up to you.”

Harsh?  Maybe.  But the truth is that the sales manager had gotten emotionally involved and had abdicated his sales management duties in favor of being a part-time, un-commissioned sales rep.  Sales managers do this every day without realizing it. If that’s you, stop!

If you get out and work with your top people, you may find easily coachable moments that will produce success – and if you improve a top rep once, they will always want to work with you - and for you.


Troy Harrison is the author of “Sell Like You Mean It!” and “The Pocket Sales Manager.”  He is a Speaker, Consultant, and Sales Navigator.  Visit www.TroyHarrison.com.

About the Author: Troy Harrison

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