Good question! There is no rue of thumb covering this question. I believe that it depends on a variety of factors. Some of the factors are:
- Does the company have all local reps?
- Are the reps all remote?
- Is there a combination of local and remote reps?
- Are the salespeople experienced?
- Are there more rookies than experienced reps?
- Do the salespeople need “closing” help?
- What are the expectations of upper management?
If someone forced my hand over a blazing fire and told me to take a stand on this question I would say that the sales manager should spend the majority of their time in the field working with salespeople. What’s a majority? Let’s say 75% of the time. And let’s also say that this is a general rule of thumb, depending on these factors:
- The number of salespeople
- The skill level of the salespeople
- Inside factors that need sales management direction, e.g. customer service hiring and training
- The maturity of the market place
- The maturity of the company
Here’s another factor. The max number of salespeople that a manager can manage is eight. (I’ll let that go for another post.) Here are more in-depth rules of thumb:
- If your salespeople are seasoned veterans then you as the manager do not have to work with then more than once every 6 weeks.
- If you have a group of 7 salespeople and 5 of them are newbies than you should be in the field with the newbies every 2-4 weeks until you are satisfied that their product knowledge and their skill sets have reached a specific level. (Obviously, that level will vary.)
- If you have just finished training the reps on a specific selling system or they have been trained by an outside trainer then you want to be out in the field with them at a minimum of every six weeks or sooner depending on the size of the group.
- If you are new sales manager in a company then you should be in the field working with reps constantly until you have a sense for their skill level.
A sales manager’s field time depends to a large extent on the size of the company. During my first sales management gig I was in the field every week because I wanted to make sure that the reps were in front of enough prospects and that they were getting evaluations of the product. (On hindsight I needn’t have worried. These salespeople knew that large commission dollars would come their way if they did the right sales behaviors.)
It is extremely difficult to create a solution for every sales management situation. Managers need to look at the variables that exist in their world in order to determine how often they need to work with their salespeople. The ultimate rule of thumb is to assess whether the salespeople know the fundamentals of sales and that they have a balanced sales behavior plan. If they have both of those then you don’t have to spend as much time in the field with them. Although…..
The Final Thought: “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” Peter F Drucker