Dual sales – management role is too much

Dear Joan:
I joined my firm in July of 1988 as the Vice President of Financial Planning. It was made very plain to me by the President of the firm that this was to be a working position. In other words, I was to continue to sell as well as manage. I had fifteen years worth of clients, as such this was not a problem to me.

For the first year or so, I had plenty of time to service my existing clients and to go after new business. Since then, the organization has grown in number and I am left with a time management problem that has me perplexed. Thus, my writing this letter.

A small number of consultants in the firm are very respectful of my time and will check with me before coming into my office with their needs (customer proposals, service questions, etc.). However, most of the consultants are so caught up with their needs that they could give a hoot about me or my need to get to things that are for my clients.

What can I do to get across to these people that I care about them and their needs, but occasionally have things in front of them that take precedence? To date I have tried: locking my door; putting a "do not disturb" sign on the door; working at different locations like my home or the library; talking directly to the different people about this individually; taking my chairs out of my office; standing up to announce the end of the discussion. Not much has worked. I am at my wit's end!

You are missing the real problem. The organization has grown and you can no longer do both sales and management. One of them has got to go.

If you look at this from a slightly different perspective, your colleagues are serving their clients, too, and they need as much time and assistance as you do to serve yours. In the end, the clients are the ones who are going to suffer; you can't find the time to go after new business and service existing clients and the consultants can't get enough support and coaching from you to service theirs.

So, this is not an issue of your colleagues not being respectful of your time. On the contrary, it appears to be an issue of your associates needing to get some of your time so they can do what you want them to do for their customers and the company. I might add, they are committed to doing this even at the risk of making you irritated!

In other words, your associates are your customers, too. They have been told that you are their manager - the person who is supposed to help them. If you asked them for their feelings, they would probably say, "He wants us to know all the answers, make the right decisions and provide fast, helpful service, yet how can we when he's never able to give us a minute of his time? This job is frustrating because I can't get what I need to do it right."

If they work on a commission basis, the problem is even bigger. If they can't get the help they need, it will impact their ability to make money. That's a prescription for resentment and dissatisfaction. If it gets bad enough, the company will start to experience a turnover problem.

It's time to go back to the president with a proposal. You need to decide what you are best at before you approach her. What are you better at, selling or managing? Which of these will the company benefit from most? If you believe that you are best at selling and managing isn't the best use of your talents, perhaps someone else should be the manager so you are free to sell.

If the president still wants you to oversee the consultants, suggest that another person be inserted between you and the consultants, who will be responsible for the day-to-day operations. In fact, you may know a consultant who would prefer to manage rather than sell or service clients.

If your employees are coming to you with routine questions, that is a signal that they need more coaching and training. If someone doesn't take time to do this properly when they are hired, you or the new manager will set yourself up to be pestered relentlessly. If their questions indicate that they need someone in a troubleshooting role, there is even more need for a lead consultant or assistant manager who can step in and do the day-to-day coaching.

Words of caution, however, don’t expect a consultant to sell and manage at the same time. Pushing the problem down a level won't solve it.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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