Selling Microsoft

6 Time-Management Tips for Sales Leaders

Recently I posted a question in several forums on my LinkedIn groups asking, "What are the top three challenges for sales managers? "

The No. 1 response by a wide margin was time management.

Sales management is a high-churn job, typically lasting 18 months due to the challenges of juggling salesperson issues, achieving quotas, meeting demands of middle and executive management and managing the business. On top of that, few sales managers have ever received proper training or been exposed to successful role models.

At Acumen Management, we've found that the sales management role is a weak link in many partner organizations. We find that as we address a sales manager's time-management problem, we begin to resolve many of their company's other issues.

We have several general recommendations:

  1. Plan effectively and plan for chaos. Sales and sales training meetings must be defined with agendas and organized 90 days in advance. A little planning ensures organization and proper content and eliminates people not showing up for training because "something came up." On a daily basis, don't overplan your time. Problems will arise and you must react to situations. When you have important one-on-one meetings, set them at 7:30 a.m. before you get distracted.
  2. Don't accept every problem. Often a new or inexperienced sales manager tries to tackle every problem that every salesperson or marketing person brings up. This makes them feel important, and every person wants to be liked or respected for getting things done. However, the end result is the to-do list gets longer and less time is available to accomplish the action items. This can also become an emotional conflict between the salesperson and the manager, with the salesperson feeling that the sales manager can't get anything done and the manager becoming frustrated and emotionally drained. Learn to say: "What is your recommendation?" and put the monkey on the salesperson's back.
  3. Find ways to get educated. Without a mentor or experience with a successful sales manager, many Microsoft partner sales managers and executives struggle. We recommend visiting or benchmarking other partner locations to see how they run their organizations. As a vice president of sales for a channel organization, I actually started a national sales management association. Twice a year I brought my channel partners together to collaborate, share and cooperate on common sales-management challenges.
  4. Don't re-invent the wheel. Many managers spend too much time creating new tools, sales programs or operational- process documents. Ask others or use existing tools.
  5. Get things done. Daily to-do lists must be updated or re-prioritized each evening. Make it a goal prior to leaving for home, and start the day with a plan.
  6. Set weekly goals. While getting things accomplished daily is critical, make sure you're prioritizing goals on a weekly basis, as well. Be clear and focused.

We all have the same amount of time each week to achieve our objectives. I recently met a Microsoft partner salesperson who made 11 to 13 face-to-face calls a week and spent one hour a day prospecting. Think he was organized? One of my mentors worked four days a week and enjoyed Fridays on Cape Cod-and he was a partner and vice president of sales for a large partner organization with multiple offices.

If you focus on what's really important, you'll accomplish more than anyone else in your office and outperform your competitors.

About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at