If you are like most managers, you invest a fair amount of time in helping your salespeople prioritize and organize their activities in order to maximize their productivity. And, if you’re like most managers, the challenge of prioritizing and organizing your own activities seems at times to be almost insurmountable.
Shockingly enough, upper management has their idea of how and where you should invest your time:
- Your salespeople present you with a variety of problems to solve and disputes to settle.
- Customers need hand holding.
Organizing your time: Where to start
All too often, “organizing” your time and activities takes a back seat to just getting through the day. There is a way to think about your activities, however, that provides a framework for organizing them and increasing your productivity:
- The first element to consider is time. There are two major ways of framing time: short term and long term. Most managers have quarterly and annual goals. You should have a sense of what those windows of time represent.
- The second element to consider addresses the nature of the tasks and activities you perform. Over both the short and the long term, there are tasks and activities you must perform that are of major importance, and there are those that are of minor importance.
Prioritizing tasks: Where to focus your time
Dr. Stephen Covey came up with a four-quadrant matrix contrasting “Important/Not Important” activities versus “Urgent/Not Urgent” tasks. Using the dual aspects of the two elements, we can create a framework for thinking about the tasks and activities that lead us toward achieving our goals, and a tool for organizing and listing them.
Most of us spend the majority of our time in Quadrant (I) of “Important/Urgent.” We are firefighters going around putting out brush fires, but not solving the root cause of the problems that caused the fire in the first place. We are consumed in the day-to-day emergencies.
Covey argues we should spend our time in the “Important/Not Urgent” Quadrant (II). This is the space of preparation, prevention, planning, true re-creation, relationship building and empowerment. Ideally, we should spend a little more than 60 percent of our time in this quadrant, but getting there from where we are now is daunting.
Imagine what your world would be like, though, if you could:
- Provide a framework for your salespeople to solve customer problems without your direct involvement.
- Pick up your head to look out six, 12 or 24 months to anticipate your customer’s requirements.
- Mentor one of your salespeople to assume your role as you move up the ladder.
Don’t just focus on your team’s productivity. Make sure you’re making the most of your own time, as well.
DAVE HARMAN is an associate with Sandler Training. He has over 30 years’ experience in sales and sales management with Fortune 500 companies as well as small, family-owned organizations. He’s held positions from sales to senior management with companies such as Conoco/Vista, Amresco and Ohio Awning, and owns his own business. He earned his MBA with a concentration in Marketing from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. You can reach him at
or (888) 448-2030.