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Q. Being a branch manager and having six reps and no sales manager, how do you delegate some of their requests back to them without discouraging their efforts?

Copyright MMX, by Dave Kahle

A. Begin with clear expectations. What you expect the sales person to do ought not to be a secret, nor a matter for negotiations. In the absence of clear and specific expectations, the sales people will default to what feels comfortable to them. So, you'll naturally have them coming into the office to do their quotes, source product and make phone calls. If you haven't indicated otherwise, they'll naturally fill that time with other stuff to do, and some of that involves you!

So, the first step to getting control of your own time is to make sure the sales people know what is their job, and what is yours. In our Kahle Way® Sales Management System, for example, we teach managers to create three to five annual goals for each sales person, and then to manage those with a monthly one-on-one conference.

When you do that, you communicate specifically what you expect of each sales person. By investing quality time up front, you reduce the 'low quality' time that the sales person demands of you down the road.

Now, before we go too far, let's stop and think about this a bit. One of the biggest time wasters for sales people is the amount of clerical work that they are often expected to do. These typically include things like looking up prices, sourcing new products, creating quotes, managing price increases, checking on back orders, delivering literature, etc.

Do you really want a sales person doing all of this clerical stuff when he/she could be selling? It's one thing if the sales person doesn't have enough to do. So, if you relieve him of these clerical issues, he'll take off every afternoon at 3:00 and golf or fish the rest of the day. In that case, he probably should be doing the clerical stuff.

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However, those situations are rare. If you relieve most sales people of the clerical details, they'll typically spend more time with their customers. And that enlargement of their "sales time" will bring greater productivity and increased sales. This is particularly true of experienced and successful sales people who pay the price of their success with more and more "management responsibility" of their territory's details. The more successful they become, the more details they inherit.

So, the first question to ask is, "Would your sales people be more productive if they were relieved of the clerical details?" If you think the answer is "yes" then why not arrange the structure to accommodate that? In other words, hire a sales administrator who can work with the sales people to relieve them of the details. Keep track of the resulting increase in sales productivity to make sure that the position will pay for itself. With six sales people, you ought to be able to support at least a half-time person.

With that change, hopefully you'll deal with a lot of the "requests." The next thing to do is become trained in our Kahle Way® Sales Management System, which teaches you how to substitute "strategic accountability" conversations with your sales people for the daily "tactical" discussions which often mark the type of communication between a sales person and a manager. This will reduce the frequency of "requests" from your sales people, and yet keep you in the loop.

Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He's authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave's training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit www.davekahle.com to check out a seminar near you.

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