Time Management Don't Let Inmates Run Your Asylum

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Dec 15, 2023 by Sean Luce

As a sales manager in this age of consolidation, you may find it difficult to stay on course throughout the week. It may seem that, after Tuesday, you're at the mercy of your sales reps, as their schedule (or lack of one) causes their emergencies to become yours. You're suddenly off on some wild, firefighting tangent to solve their problems. Have you ever said to yourself: "Where did the week go?" or "How can the inmates be running the asylum?"

It doesn't have to be this way. To prevent the asylum syndrome, many sales managers hang a weekly schedule or calendar on their doors. This tells the reps (and everybody else at the station) that those managers have their act together. They lead by example with a good weekly work itinerary. Of course, sticking to it is another thing. If you don't have the self-discipline to execute it, don't put one up, because it will only make you look worse at time management than you might be.

Here are things to consider when putting together a weekly calendar/schedule and as well as things you must be sure to include in the plan.

- Alone Time: Nothing replaces this time, and nobody infringes on this time. If you don't plan for it, then you will never have quality time to get your work done. Schedule this first thing in the morning before the reps come through the door. Even if it's scheduled for only 30 minutes, those 30 minutes will help you get more done than eight hours in a day constantly interrupted by the Mickey Mouse emergencies that pop up. This is also a good time to work on your sales meetings for the week, instead of throwing together an agenda 15 minutes before the meeting time. Close your door and ignore your open-door policy. You can have one - except for those 30 minutes.

- Sales Meetings: Plan for them and prepare for them. Don't have a sales meeting unless you have a specific reason for it - and just because it's scheduled doesn't mean you should have it if you're not prepared. Anything less is wasting time for you and your sales reps. I recommend that most managers have one "administration" meeting and one "training" meeting in a week. The meetings should last no more than 45 minutes, although some may schedule every-other-week training sessions of 90 minutes. Schedule sales meetings 30 minutes after the work day begins, allowing the reps to prepare their day so they won't be filling out a traffic order while you conduct your training agenda.

- One-on-One Meetings: These usually are done early in the week; in some cases, they might take up the entire day. Other sales managers like to do them on Fridays so they know their reps are ready to hit the ground running on Monday morning. Schedule 30 minutes each - and allow nobody to interrupt them.

- In-Field Coaching (IFC): This is the most important thing to do. Schedule it weekly, two or three days a week, depending on how many reps you have. Leave the office at 9 or 9:30 a.m. and be back at 4 p.m. Ride the full day with your reps to see how they stick to their weekly work plan. Most IFC days are scheduled Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. If you are a manager that also has a list, then be sure you have time to cover your accounts.

- Administrative Day: This is a planning day for you beyond your quiet time of 30 minutes each morning. It can be on Monday or Friday, depending on when you have the one-on-one meetings with your sales reps.

- Firefighting: Don't omit this, or you'll be doing it all week at all times. Schedule this effort at the end of the day, when the reps are coming back from the field. A good time is 4-5 p.m. Let your reps know that your door will be open for idea generation, review of orders, clearance of paperwork SNAFUs and other trouble-prevention.

Certainly, there's a lot more to your work week than what I've mentioned, but these are most of the important tasks a sales manager should schedule. If you don't commit to hanging a weekly calendar that lets your reps know what's going on, you soon will be imprisoned in their world, and you won't accomplish half as much as you would with such a calendar. For an example of one, e-mail me at the address below.

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