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When You Leave

Sales leaders sometimes travel and sometimes they even take the time for a vacation! I can remember leading a sales management workshop 10 years ago when, at a break, it seemed almost everyone ran to a phone to check in and "put out fires." Two of attendees stayed behind and chatted casually about the class or other topics. It was a clear study of who were in control and, perhaps, who were not. The two sales managers must have known that even without them, their team and organization would continue to function.

In today's world with text, e-mail and mobile phones, staying in touch is easy...sometimes too easy. There are a few rules in leading a high-performance sales team when out of the office:

One: Make your team independent of you. Many first-time sales managers feel they must "serve" their team by solveing all their problems. While support is critical, absorbing their problems does not solve their problems -- it only adds to yours and limits your time to be effective on the strategic and key tactical actions you need to take to be successful. When a salesperson presents a problem to you, remember to say: "What are your three recommendations?" This will help them pre-think the issue before burdening you and, perhaps, solve the problem themselves.

Two: Assign Responsibility. When you are going to be away for a period of time, assign one or several salespeople to various roles. Obviously, you may limit their responsibility, but allow someone to run the weekly meeting or lead a sales training program and, if you have new or younger salespeople on your team, make sure each has an assigned senior to provide mentoring. These small tasks allow you to test and train others for future sales management roles.

Three: Turn off your phones. When you are at a conference, workshop or even taking a day off, enjoy the time to focus and clear the brain or, what I call, "get some fresh air." Sure, you can check your e-mail from time to time, but limit it to three times a day.

If you are living in a crisis mode and need to be in constant contact with everyone, then you might like to take the sales management Audit Analysis on my Web site to find out what you need to focus on to improve your sales management systems.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on August 31, 2010