Fact: There’s a gap between the reality of who and where sales managers actually spend their time versus who and where sales leaders believe time should be spent.
In the most recent blog post in our benchmark study series, we noted that while it might be more enjoyable in the short-term to focus energy on high performers, however, the costs associated with not developing new hires and middle performers because they aren’t getting the attention they need is costly — more than $200,000 and an average of 4.3 months is spent hiring and onboarding.
One sales leader who participated in our study quipped, “The whole thing is upside down. Managers should be spending more time coaching 1st years on external, market-facing interactions. Once sellers are high-performing and tenured, more time should be spent on internal interactions like deal strategy.”
Indeed, we found that low performers, based on % to plan, are disproportionately made up of first year sellers and high performers are disproportionately made up of tenured sellers.
Now that we’ve covered WHO your sales managers should be spending more time with, let’s discuss WHERE in the sales process they should be most involved.
Who, Where, and How Managers Spend Time Matters
When speaking with 40+ sales leaders, we heard sentiments like, “We’ve talked about the issue of how we spend our time as a management team, but in practicality our time spent is evenly distributed across the team, when it probably shouldn’t be.”
Our study found a significant opportunity to improve manager efficiency and shrink the delta between actual versus desired manager time spend. Nearly 75% of sales leaders reported a medium or large delta, noting that their managers spend more time than necessary on issues like closing deals with high performing sellers at the bottom of the funnel, where a manager is unlikely to influence the outcome versus time spent getting more sellers to plan.
We’ve identified who is not getting enough attention, but now the question is where in the sales process to focus that energy.
Early vs. Late: The Impact of Shifting Manager Time
Sales managers have an unending list of to dos and must balance their goal among other responsibilities — but when it comes down to brass tacks, where are they truly focusing their attention? Gartner’s research has shown that much of their time is spent overseeing direct reports, more than 35% is spent in internal meetings, and when they do engage in sales cycles, it’s most likely to be late-stage deals that are in the forecast. Only 9% of sales manager time is spent actually developing their reps, despite evidence that shifting focus from late to early stage opportunities can increase productivity more than 25%.
Re-evaluating WHERE in the sales process managers direct their time works: More time spent with sellers in early vs. late stage sales cycles has a bigger impact on sales performance because any sales leader will tell you that deals are won or lost during discovery and qualification and not at negotiation.
Again and again, sales leaders told us they believe that shifting manager time spend results in a greater impact to productivity. Even subtle leadership adjustments can improve outcomes, and this is why a smaller delta often results in significant improvement.
But knowing is only half the battle — despite widely-acknowledged sales leader concerns, sales managers still struggle to shift time to earlier stage interactions, where the immediate return on their time is less clear. Over the long run though, this is where managers actually drive improved productivity.
So how can sales leaders better optimize manager time and actually redirect coaching efforts to boost rep productivity and get more deals to close? That’s where structured coaching comes in, which I’ll discuss in our next blog post.
The Right Sales Tech
With help from CT Connect, sales leaders gain the benefit of instantly seeing who and where frontline managers are spending their time. Sales managers can make better use of their time by:
- Shifting to focus on engaging new hires and middle performers
- Allocating more time to top-of-funnel interactions
- Identifying and improving the selling behaviors that matter most
CT Connect helps guide who sales managers spend time with, where in the sales process and most importantly how:
Identifying Coaching Opportunities: Keep crucial information top-of-mind with snapshots that show a team’s tenure and sales performance — enabling managers to identify critical coaching opportunities for specific team members.
Improving Feedback: Give sellers the information they need with a framework that ensures managers are evaluating the behaviors that correlate to increased sales performance.
Tracking ROI: Use executive leadership analytics and reporting features to correlate coaching to better win rates and goal attainment.