So many sales leaders spend time managing rather than investing their precious hours where they will do the most. “My best people don’t need me, my poor performers do,” is the belief that brings about some poor choices. It’s time to liberate you from this unproductive belief.
Here’s a quick self-discovery exercise: On the left side of a blank page, list your sales producers from first to last in terms of productivity, omitting those who haven’t had enough time to prove themselves in their roles.
Now, fold that page vertically (hot dog-style) to create two columns, with the side of the paper you’ve used tucked behind, face down. On the blank side, write your producers’ names in order of how much time is spent with, on, and about them, with most at the top down to least. Finally, unfold the page and draw lines connecting matching names. So, if Lindsey is on your top line, connect that entry to Lindsey in the time-spent column.
What does the page look like? If you’re like most sales managers, you’ll see crisscrossing lines — high producers not getting a lot of your time, and vice-versa. If you’re a management genius, you have parallel lines, like railroad ties.
Now, let’s think for a moment about one of the world’s most performance-oriented industry: professional sports. Who do the head coaches and managers in that business spend the most time with, their stars or their third stringers?
When I’ve walked live audiences through this exercise, the epiphanies and pain come quickly to the participants as they realize they should have been spending their time setting the stars up for greater success — and they can’t get those wasted hours back.
After the epiphanies and pain come the questions from managers. Here are the most frequently asked:
Q: What if many of my best producers just want to be left alone.
A: Many people want to be left alone, but no one wants to be ignored. Sure, the best might not need you teaching, reviewing, and hand-holding, but they probably would love you talking with them about career progression and lending a friendly ear when they need it.
Q: How can I spend less time with my neediest? I have a team quota to make.
A: Take a hard look at your team, using this exercise: Plot their names on a 2X2 grid where the horizontal line is the talent it takes to excel and the vertical line is on-the-job experience. Here’s how to think about the four quadrants in front of you:
- High Talent/High Experience: Investment Quadrant. Ask those producers what you can do for them and invest the time to do it. Give them all Freedom and Support they want/need.
- High Talent/Low Experience: Development Quadrant. Ride along, teach, mentor. It’s only a matter of time before they are in the first quadrant if you do.
- High Experience/Low Talent: The Positioning Quadrant. Some of these people have seen the job expectations change and haven’t been able to keep up. Others have long been “tellers” rather than sellers. Can you team them with the Development folks? Do you not have time for that? If not, you might have a tough decision to make.
- Low Experience/Low Talent: The Miscast Quadrant. It’s not their fault: you probably didn’t make the right choices in hiring those would-be producers. As soon as you know it, work with HR to remedy a situation that probably won’t improve much.
Q: How can I do that when HR insists on a months-long process to term someone?
A: Think about the gap between your knowing you made a hiring mistake and your call to HR. Close the gap.
Now, I challenge you to invest more of your time on the 1’s and 2’s. I hope you can get that to 75% of your time. You’ll be more successful, happier, and probably richer for it.