If you’re a sales manager, you can’t get it all done. As long as the laws of the universe keep the day 24 hours long, you cannot fulfill all the management, sales, marketing, coaching, networking and administrative tasks thrown in your direction. What you can do is win more time for the most important work you need to do—the tasks that boost team productivity and performance, resulting in more leads, more sales opportunities and more business wins.
Early this April, Pivotal Advisors partnered with The Sales Management Association to host a Webinar to give sales managers specific insight into how they can win more time for strategic, team- and sales-cultivating work. Titled “Visibility for the CEO, Sanity for the Sales Manager,” the Webinar was an opportunity for us to share proven best practices in managing up. It’s easy to get distracted from revenue-driving activities when one-off requests come in from your senior manager. But when those requests are frequent, brief distractions turn into giant gaps in your productivity and your ability to manage, develop and motivate your sales team. Our Webinar looked at how getting the right information and visibility to senior leaders can win sales managers more time to focus on team building and profit-driving work in addition to earning them the credibility to say “no” to non-critical requests for their time.
While the Webinar is not currently online, we have summarized below the three best practices in managing up discussed in the Webinar. Just a quick once over and sales managers can get back to work with techniques for gaining more time for the most important, results-driving sales management tasks: sales rep coaching, strategic planning and discerning participation in sales efforts.
Sales Manager Insights: Three Best Practices in Successfully Managing Up
Provide the Right Reports
If your senior manager is constantly asking for data and figures outside of the regular reports you are providing, you are not providing the right reports or you are not providing enough information. A senior manager who feels like he/she isn’t getting the full story does not trust the information you provide.
Sit down with your senior manager and determine exactly what information is needed (content), how often (frequency) and how he/she wants to see it (format). Then build a report and reporting schedule that delivers that information. This process allows senior managers to think through exactly which numbers are important to them and gives you one, valuable reporting tool that meets those needs. That’s not to say that one-off requests won’t occur, but this process will cut them dramatically while giving your boss information he/she can trust. If the requests start to creep up again, revisit the reporting process and content with your senior manager once more.
Pivotal Advisors also strongly advises that your reports to senior managers give anecdotal sales team insights to demonstrate how sales are progressing. In addition, add a risks and surprises column to inform senior managers of any unexpected events or issues that could be putting accounts in jeopardy.
Ensure the Best, Most Accurate Data
Many managers—both senior and sales—do not trust the data in the sales management or CRM systems. How accurate is the data you are reporting up to senior management? If you’re not certain of the quality of the data, run a historical analysis and verify it. The problem with unreliable data is that it causes senior managers to rely on you to hunt down and vet the data for them. Work with sales staff to ensure information is reported accurately, on time and with integrity. If people are trying to sugarcoat results, put an end to it to ensure the reports you run represent the work and performance of your team. If the reports are true and the data clean, senior leaders will trust them and send you fewer questions and request for additional information.
Practice Saying No
Your senior leader may ask you to participate in panels and attend numerous company meetings which greatly limit your time for team development and revenue-driving activities. Rather than taking them all on, analyze your calendar and agree only to the tasks that are truly important. No senior manager wants their top sales leader in a meeting room all day. If you find a large portion of your time is in meetings (say 20% or more) sit down with your senior manager and explain that you will need to say no to more meetings so you have more time for critical fieldwork, like sales and coaching.
And if you are asked why you, as a manager, are so dedicated to fieldwork, share this: The study “Redefining Sales Manager Excellence” from the Corporate Executive Board found that a minimum amount of mentoring/coaching (even poorly done) can improve bottom-line results by 19%. Consider then, what just an average amount of coaching will achieve!
If you are like most managers we talk to, you’ll find our advice compelling, but not exactly applicable to your circumstances—there is no chance you could or would tell your boss, “No.” If your senior leader is, let’s just say, really tough, and would not take no for an answer, you’re not alone. However, we have seen on many occasions sales managers explain to their bosses how they want to focus their time—working in the field, developing team members, etc.—and their plan for creating more of this time. You may be surprised to learn that the senior leader, even the very strong-minded boss, almost always agrees to the plan. The fact is, most of the time your senior leader has no idea how much time he or she takes away from your day. So, explain your day, what you need to accomplish and the disruptive effect numerous one-off requests have on your schedule and focus. Few senior leaders, even yours, can ignore the advantages that come with helping you get the time needed to improve sales team performance and results.