A Guide to Time Management for Channel Managers

Sometimes it may seem as if there are not enough hours in the day to get things done as a Channel Manager, and time management can be a real issue for some. Here are my thoughts, and a few tips, on how to get on top of your available time.

You only have so many hours per month, week and day available to you. After you take out sleep, travel, personal, and family time, you have your available working time. But meetings, travel time between partners, internal company reviews and meetings, attending to email, and fielding phone calls reduce it further. In fact, over the years I have heard so many channel managers say "I don't have enough time!". Actually, you do. You're just not organising it to suit what you have to do, and the world around you is setting it for you.

But being more efficient with your time is only the beginning. Once you have your time organised, you need to turn your attention to being more effective. Once you are doing both, you will really start to fly. This article looks at some of the techniques I have used over the years, and that I have also observed other Channel Managers use. It's not the definitive guide to time management by any means, but if it makes you just 10% more efficient, then you will be on your way.

Organising your time.

You may be familiar with the time management concept "Big Rocks, Little Rocks". If you aren't, do a google search. This is a very fundamental concept and is all about you organising your time before it is organised for you. The things that you need and want to do are the big rocks. The everyday things that others want you to do, are the little rocks. Your available time is a large jar. The principle is that you get your big rocks into the jar first, before others fill your time-jar up with little rocks.

So, what are the big rocks when it comes to your calendar? 

The obvious one is time actually at your partners, but don't forget travel time. Your big rocks are the things that you need to do in your available hours. Next comes Task Management, End of Day review and noting of actions, and Follow up. Before you can start organising your time however, there are probably some mandatory internal meetings such as one on one reviews with your manager and maybe sales meetings.

The first thing to do is to categorise, in order of importance, all the types of things you need to do each week and month and get them into your calendar. As mentioned above, fill your calendar before you get pushed from pillar to post and your calendar is filled for you.

Lets have a look at what a typical Channel Manager's list of things to do may look like, in order of importance. Bear in mind that your list may be different; this is just an example to get you thinking.

1. Mandatory Items

Mandatory items are things that you cannot move easily, or have little or no control over. If you have a weekly or fortnightly one on one with your manager, this needs to be scheduled into your timetable and there is probably little chance of you deciding when it happens. This is especially if it is an opportunity or pipeline review as it will generally be part of a whole-company cycle.

You department, or location, may have weekly or fortnightly sales meetings. Once again, this needs to be factored for as it will generally be on a set day and time.

2. Partner Time

After your mandatory items, this should account for the largest time allocated in your calendar, as it (should) be your primary job role. This time will typically include actual time at a partners premises, travel time (often forgotten), entertainment and also phone time for partners that you may cover by phone only. If you have partners that only have phone coverage, it is important to treat the time just as valuably as partners you cover face to face otherwise it will be forgotten.

If you have worked through the article written previously on how to determine your best partners (here), this will provide valuable information on where your time needs to be spent, at least for the next quarter. Using this information, work out which partners receive a face to face visit and how often (weekly, fortnightly or monthly) and which partners receive phone coverage (and how often also). Using the supplied template for this article, start blocking out which partners you will cover each week. Remember to also bookend travel time to partners that you are visiting in person.

An important part of channel management is relationship management and networking. Depending on your circumstances, schedule at least three times each week to meet key people over lunch, breakfast, or coffee meetings. I generally prefer two lunches, three coffee meeetings and one breakfast each week. The purpose of these meetings (yes, they are meetings) is to get to know particular people better, discover agendas (or set them), use someone as a sounding board or to grow your eco-system (see other article this month). It's also useful to get partners away from their office environment sometimes and away from distractions.

3. Governance 

This is an area where some channel managers fall down. After meeting with partners, you will generally have things that you need to do. It is important that you schedule time EVERY day so that you stay on top of your tasks. 

At the end of each day, have time set aside for a review of the day with yourself, and when required, to confirm meetings and appointments with contacts for the following day; it's much easier to organise your day the night before if there are any late cancellations.

Planning and Thinking time. Yes, you do need time away from email, phones and other distractions at LEAST every month. The perfect time to schedule this important work are the partial weeks at the start and end of your timetable. This is covered later in this article. Remember though that you do need to set aside time to plan, think, discuss, and review all the different information that you collect to ensure you are working towards the KPI's your company has given you, and that you have established with your partners.

4. Other People

There are a few great sayings that I adhere to when it comes to people coming at me with urgent requests. "Why is your problem becoming my problem?", and "ASAP means as soon as possible, not right this instant!". In your mind, get used to saying "No" to spurious and last-minute requests for your time. My belief is that if people can't organise their time, that's their problem and I shouldn't make it mine. Sure, you will get the occasional request from three levels up where you can do nothing but accept a meeting request, but wherever possible, the gaps in your time are where these requests for your time should be shunted.

If your company uses a calendaring system, people *should* respect your calendar and only send meeting invites to you where you have free time available. It is the nature of our life as channel managers that last minute things will come at us, so try and "schedule" an hour each day to accommodate these requests; don't fill your calendar completely.

So now that we understand what we want to get done, as opposed to what everyone else wants you to do, it's time to work out a timetable. This is an important step to do BEFORE you implement it in your calendar.

Establishing a Timetable

Some channel managers work best on a monthly timetable, some quarterly, and some fortnightly. Determine what suits the flow of your company and the number of partners you have responsibility for to determine how you are going to organise your time. If you are unsure, or have never taken this approach to organising your time, I'd suggest starting with a rolling monthly timetable. Start your timetable on the first Monday of each month. If you operate to monthly or quarterly cycles in your business, you can use the days that straddle end of month or end of quarter for either planning or last-minute opportunity closing. In other words, your timetable will only be in effect for weeks that fall within an entire month or quarter, depending on which length of timetable you intend to work with. 

If you elect to run a monthly timetable and the first day of a month is on a Tuesday, run the timetable from the 1st Monday of the month. This will give you a clear three-week timetable with several days at both the beginning and end of the month for your Governance time.

If you run to a quarterly timetable, start with the first Monday of the Quarter, and end with the last Friday of the quarter. This will typically give you a 12 week timetable.

Start with a monthly timetable, adjust it as you get used to it, and then decide if you would like to move to a quarterly timetable once you have settled into your new pattern. It's your calendar - you choose!

Organising your time

Now that you have established what you need to do, it's time to organise your timetable, and once happy with it, transfer it to your calendar. Attached to this article is a timetable template. The idea is to place your mandatory items in the timetable first starting with Mandatory Items, then Partner time, then followed by Governance. Some basics include placing your travel time in; regardless if this is for travelling to your office, to partners or home. The point is to have all your available time scheduled in 30 minute blocks and to stay on track.

Once you have placed your Mandatory, Partner and Governance items in your template (the big rocks) you now need to replicate this in your calendar. Anyone now trying to schedule time with you will see where your "free" time is and slot in accordingly. Your timetable, now reflected in your calendar, is yours. It is your time management plan and it is up to you to keep it on track.

Don't slip!

When you get a meeting/phone conference request that does not take any notice of your available time, simply reject it. The requestor is trying to get time with you so will need to adjust their calendar if they really want your time. This will be tough to do at first, but get used to saying "No". You have a job to do, you've organised yourself, and it's now up to you to keep it on track. 

Get your manager's support

Consider discussing with your immediate manager that you are going to implement a timetable and get his/her support. It would be rare to have a manager not be supportive of you if you explain that you are doing this to become more efficient and effective with a view to delivering the results he/she is wanting you to achieve.

This article has covered quite a range of topics, not just time management, and that is intentional. Some people new to channel management may believe that it's only about going from partner to partner and "telling" them all about your products. Or maybe you are an experienced channel manager who is being too lax organising your time, and this will serve as a reminder of all the things you need to accomplish and get you back on track.

Wherever you are in your channel management career, remember that time never stands still and is easily wasted. Organise your time wisely otherwise others will use it wastefully for you.

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Template Downloads mentioned in this article

Excel xls file for Windows       Excel xlsx file for Macs 

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