At many of the organizations we work with, the size of the average sales team has increased over the past decade. Given that there are a limited number of working hours, and given that sales leaders now find themselves responsible for supervising, training, mentoring, and coaching larger teams, what best practices should they embrace when it comes to time management? Here are three to consider.
Build and defend a “guardrail” working culture. If you were managing a team of just three or four people, you might be able to get away with swooping in like Superman every time a salesperson needed your “advice” on closing a deal, soothing a ruffled prospect, resolving a problem with other teams within your organization, or planning a major presentation. But you’re not managing three or four people. So the question is: Does it really make sense for all the team’s problem-solving roads to lead through you? Here’s a hint: No.
Let’s be frank. The “advice” your team members request from you, usually with the best of intentions, is often a disguised attempt to get you to do their job – and that’s neither scalable or sustainable. What you’re after is a working culture in which people act as if they own the company … within narrowly defined areas. They must have the autonomy and support they need from you to make the best independent decisions possible, while “driving within the guardrails” you identify for them.
So here’s the deal you want to strike: If the salesperson stays within the guardrails you define, he or she gets to act independently – and, yes, mess up from time to time, tell you exactly what happened, and learn from the mistake. That way of doing business may take some getting used to on both sides, but really, what’s the alternative? A team driven by learned helplessness that puts all the pressure on you – and squanders everyone’s precious time.
Schedule and hold brief individual meetings with each salesperson each week. If, say, twenty people report to you, it’s simply not realistic for you to hold twenty hour-long meetings a week. But you can (and should) schedule shorter private weekly check-ins with everyone on staff. Give yourself a five-to-ten-minute catch-up session with each and every direct report. This condensed meeting allows you to quickly review the high points of the week just passed, the lessons learned, and the major priorities for the week ahead. Do this with everyone on staff. Remember: It’s just as important to have these meetings with established performers as it is to have them with new hires and people who are struggling. You may choose to schedule longer coaching sessions with some of the people who report to you, and that’s fine. But committing to tightly scheduled catch-up sessions with each and every salesperson will keep everyone on track, improve communication, and minimize the number of fires you have to put out. That saves time, and you see continuous movement going forward.
Live by the cookbook. Each member of your team should have a daily and weekly cookbook (also known as a behavioral plan) that sets out exactly what needs to happen, and when, in order for the person to hit his or her revenue targets. This cookbook should be written down, personalized to each salesperson, and subject to regular review and analysis by both you and your direct report.
Guess what? You, too, need a cookbook. How much time each week are you committing to spend on recruiting? On weekly in-person catch-up meetings? On in-depth coaching sessions? On ride-alongs? On meetings with senior management? All of this needs to be quantified and set down in writing, too. Your commitment to follow your own personal leadership cookbook is just as important as your direct reports’ commitment to follow theirs. Everyone on your team – including you – should establish a daily and weekly activity rhythm – a cadence. Setting and executing this cadence will not only make the most of everyone’s time on an individual level, but will also improve the productivity of the team as a whole.
Following these three simple steps will keep you and your team on track, and ensure that you make the most of the most precious resource at your disposal: time.