The Importance of a Sales Manager’s “Ride-Along”
Here’s a question for you. What is your most important role as a sales manager? Select from the list:
a. To make sure this month’s sales goal is hit.
b. To make sure your company’s customers are happy.
c. To support your sales staff in achieving their goals.
d. To develop your sales and customer contact staff.
While an argument could be made for selecting any one of the answers listed, by far the most impactful thing a sales manager can do is to develop his or her staff. Why? If each staff member has been developed to do the right things at the right time, chances are great that a, b, and c will also be achieved.
Staff development includes these four primary areas:
a. Setting clear expectations and goals.
b. Teaching new skills.
c. Coaching to help staff master skills.
d. Monitoring performance and addressing gaps.
Of the four areas, coaching is the one that pays the greatest return on investment. Why? As a result of coaching your staff member will consistently perform key skills at an optimal level.
A “Ride Along Day” is time spent by the sales manager in the field with a staff member, observing and coaching him or her in ways that help him or her master the selling and customer care best practices of your company. The sales professional plans his or her day to be full of appointments with both prospects and customers, and the sales manager comes along as an observer.
Sales Management Tips for Effective Ride-Along Coaching:
1. Develop a list of the things you want to observe. An effective way to accomplish this is to lay out your list following the flow of the sales process. Begin with the initial stage of meeting a prospect, followed by performing a needs assessment, presenting solutions, dealing with resistance, closing, and following-up.
2. A best practice is to use a consistent form on which your observations can be noted next to the appropriate selling step in sales process.
3. Let the sales person know clearly what your role will be during the customer visit – that of an observer and not a participant.
4. Your job is to observe, not to run the meeting, present, or jump in and rescue the sales person should he/she make a mistake. Even if the customer or prospect asks you a direct question that the sales person should be answering, look the prospect’s / customer’s attention back to the sales person and let him or her deal with it. This reinforces to the prospect that the sales person is the lead, not you.
5. Key Step – Debriefing. After each meeting, debrief with the sales person. Effective sales managers do this by using questions to lead the process of self-discovery. A debrief must be conversational and low key, and not seem like an interrogation or lecture. It is important for you to assess what the sales person observed – and has learned – as a result of the meeting. Ask each of the four questions below, then remain silent and let the sales person to fully answer them:
a. “During the meeting, what things do you believe went best for you?”
b. “Conversely, what went less well than you would have liked?”
c. “If you could have a do-over, what would you do differently, and why?”
d. “Based on what you’ve shared, what three things will you do differently in the next meeting?”
6. Only after he or she has answered each coaching question should you offer your thoughts. Coaching is not criticizing; it is helping someone master a new skill that is likely a bit unwieldy.
7. By using this same process repeatedly, the sales person will begin self-assessing each call, even when you are not present.
8. On subsequent calls, make a note of the areas of improvement and encourage him or her to press on to perfection.
9. Each debrief round offers you an opportunity to have the sales person practice the finer points of selling, questioning, rapport-building, trust, effective communications, and relationship building.
Ideally, one day in five should be a Ride-Along Day. It is almost impossible to manage a sales team when flying a desk. Ride-Along Days will give you a customer’s view of what is happening at ground zero, allow you to respond to situations as you observe them, and provide valuable input to senior management. A Ride-Along Day is one of the very best investments successful sales managers make in developing staff.
This article is excerpted from Boyer Management Group’s B2B Sales Essentials℠ Sales Management Development Program.
Boyer Management Group works with sales and sales management professionals, employers and job seekers alike to help them become more successful. For employers, we offer world-class assessments, management, training, and development tools and programs. We can help you achieve startling results in sales and profits. To find out more, please visit us at email@example.com, or call us at 215-942-0982.