Sales reps have a lot of duties to juggle in a day, especially in high-volume verticals. In fact, as Ken Krogue, founder of InsideSales.com, discovered in a research study last year, sales reps spend only one-third of their time selling – fewer than three hours per day. The study also found that reps with a “specific time management philosophy” spend almost 19% more time selling – up to 53.4% of their day.
Time management is a critical skill for sales reps to acquire, and who better to help than their sales managers? Here is a guide for sales managers to help your direct reports develop and hone time management skills.
1. Assess Your Systems to See if They’re the Culprit in Time Leaks
It might be that the systems you’re using are creating time leaks. For example, maybe you’re scheduling too many meetings, or perhaps your reps are having problems with your customer relationship management system (CRM) – either because of issues with the program itself or because they don’t know how to optimize their use of it.
To determine whether there’s something amiss within the company’s systems and processes, talk to or survey your team, and ask them what the biggest impediments are to their productivity or what changes they believe would improve their time management. Every team’s scenario is going to be different, so conduct a diagnostic (see below) before proceeding with any changes. You’ll want the numbers in front of you to ensure your adjustments will benefit everyone.
2. Have Sales Reps Track Their Time
Before you can begin teaching time management, you have to know how your team members are allocating their time. To that end, have them track it, and then compare the data against the priorities and guidelines of your organization. Are they spending enough time on the activities mandated by your key performance indicators (KPIs)? What do their results look like? For top performers, you likely won’t be doing much – what they’re doing is probably working. It’s the average and underachieving reps who most stand to benefit from time management coaching.
Review the data for time leaks and inefficiencies, and then meet with each rep to go over the data together and come up with a plan for optimizing their time. Consensus is key here – you want to avoid a top-down directive that would reduce compliance, and you also don’t want to impose a one-size-fits-all methodology. Each rep is a unique person with different challenges and motivation. Going to a regimented, universal time management approach will help some reps improve, but others will decline.
3. Break Down Large Projects Into Step-by-step Processes
One of the most effective time management coaching tools is to take a large project (such as presenting to a major potential client) and break it down into a series of step-by-step processes. Estimate how long each step of each phase of the process will take, and set goals and benchmarks to signal the completion of each phase. This process might also involve collaboration with other departments – for example, working with marketing to create collateral – so you’ll need to work with your counterparts in those divisions when plotting out the timeline.
Then, check in periodically to make sure that your reps are sticking to the timeline and are on track to meet the goals and objectives. If they’re struggling with a certain task, work together to figure out how to resolve the impasse and proceed as projected.
4. Teach the Art and Science of Better Time Estimation
One of the biggest time management mistakes people make is underestimating how long an activity will take, which leads to what’s referred in psychology as the planning fallacy: Our projections of how long something will take are often based on best-case scenarios that don’t foresee delays in the process, which almost certainly will happen. (See every home remodel TV show and film ever created for examples). Part of coaching time management is helping reps determine how long a given task is actually likely to take and adjust their schedule accordingly.
Time management is a soft skill that is frequently neglected. By practicing good time management habits yourself and teaching them to your sales reps, you can have a more focused, productive and high-morale team.