We have been directing our sales managers to spend more time in the field with their reps this year. I am always surprised at how much anxiety they have about these ride alongs, or coaching visits. Reps are understandably nervous the first few times a manager spends the day with them, but after that, if the manager is inspiring, coaching, and helping the representative to be more effective, then these days together should be circled and looked forward to.
Here are 5 things sales managers should do while riding with their representatives to ensure success:
1. First, plan your month in advance and publish your calendar so that everyone knows your schedule. This way, your reps know that you are spending time with everyone on the team, and they know when you are coming. Surprise visits should be minimized and used only for performance issues or when your schedule truly changes last minute.
2. Set up your expectations and goals before the ride along. Pull out your notes and coaching reports and review the areas that you worked on during prior visits and let your rep know that you want to build on the skills and knowledge learned earlier. You need to be teaching and training everytime you are with your reps.
3. During the day, remember that your role is coach, not player. Unless you are training a new rep, most of your ride alongs should be observational while making calls, not participatory. You need to know how your reps are performing on an average day so that you can offer tips on improvement. Throughout the day, while you are in the car together, offer inspiration and ideas. Ask questions to get them thinking about new ways to break into difficult accounts or how to handle objections.
4. Providing feedback after calls is an art, and must be handled with care. Reps need constructive feedback, yet frequently fight it or get defensive about it. You have to build trust first, and then offer real advice and help. I have always found that providing positive examples of things that the rep did well helps greatly here. In fact, I usually followed what I called the FIVE ONE RULE: Offer five things that you observed that they did well, and then one thing that they could have done better. Work on the one thing, role play it together, and then see how the rep does next time. Trust me, they will look forward to your next visit if you help them in this manner!
5. Provide a summary of the day a couple of days later. This gives you a chance to reinforce your relationship with the rep and the importance of the things you worked on. Use your coaching tool and comment on the skills you observed and practiced. Let them know how much you enjoyed your time together and that you look forward to the next coaching visit. Before long, your reps will be asking you to spend MORE time with them in the field!
Senior Vice President
Business Development & Sales
CareSouth Homecare Professionals
One Tenth Street, Suite 500
Augusta, GA 30901