Rep Ride-Alongs, Do’s and Dont’s of Field Coaching

Filed Under (OP Sales Training) by Don on 12-06-2009

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As a sales manager you must spend quality time in the field with your reps evaluating performance and other areas to determine if improvement, or additional training, is necessary to bring your rep to a level where they can meet or exceed expectations.  You should have covered what your expectations are previously such as, quotas, profit margins, reporting, closing ratios, new account acquisition, etc.  If you have not covered this with your rep(s) then stop what you are doing right now and do this!  It’s that important. 

There are many things to do and not to do when field coaching.  I’ll cover this topic over the next several posts.  Plan you ride-alongs in advance, don’t just call the day before.  Surprise visits should only be for special reasons and you want your rep to be prepared so advance planning is important so my advice is to give a week’s notice.  Call or sit down with your rep the day before your time together and plan how you will spend your time together.  Set the ground rules as to how many new or prospective customers you want to see.  Give the rep the leverage to decide how he, or she, wants to introduce to the customer: sales manager, member of the management staff, sales trainer, etc.  Always keep your message to your rep positive and upbeat.  You’re not there to be critical on a personal level but to help and encourage them and to identify any weaknesses they may have where you may be able to help them become more successful.  Be up front about what you are looking to accomplish.

Early on the morning of you day in the field, meet early with your rep and review the day’s schedule.  Have your rep review each customer and prospect so you have a through understanding of why the visit is warranted.  When visiting regular customers suggest your rep to give some advance notice to the customers as some may not like the team approach and feel intimidated when two people walk in unannounced.  Remember to not wait until the end of the day to address any problems or concerns found during the calls.  It’s best to cover these issues after each call.  Your role is that of an observer so you must resist the urge to rescue the rep when they make a mistake.  When you correct them use words like “we” and not “I”.  You don’t want your rep to resent the time you spend with them.

Your role is to listen and observe and most of to be silent.  Don’t say anything unless you are addressed directly or asked a question.  When you are introduced be gracious and polite and if it is a regular customer tell them how much you appreciate their business.  As we have discussed here often the #1 thing most people desire is to feel appreciated!

I recall a visit with a rep recently where I had brought with me a quantity of miniature Fellowes Banker’s Boxes that I had filled with tiny little Tootsie Rolls.  My Fellowes rep gave me a case of these to demonstrate a new file storage box and I had the idea of pasting a business card to the top and handing them out to customers.  The rep and I made a prospecting appointment call and our contact was quiet resistent.  I had the box hidden behind my back and after an awkward moment the rep looks at me for help.  I asked if I could show them a new storage box, which was ok’d, upon which I gave a quick demonstration of the box and presented the contents to the prospect who was delighted to receive the candy.  In short, after seeing that we interested in the person first (relationship) and seeking to identify a possible solution (problem resolution) the prospect nearly leaped out of her chair and he demeanor completely changed.  Please understand I have left a lot out of the story here that you may be wondering about however, the rep looked to me for help and the situation offered me an opportunity.  This was an attorney’s office and my experience with this market is attorney’s use a lot of storage boxes.  Therefore, I was prepared in advance of the call whereas the rep was not. 

In my next post I’ll give you some things to avoid in your field coaching work.  If you have suggestions you would like to add I would love to hear from you!  If you have a story to share, please do.  We can learn from each others experiences.

The last word: “Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes only after many struggles and countless defeats.”– Og Mandino

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