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Don't Disregard the Ride Along

10 Jan, 2006 By: Howard Meltzer imageSource

Don't Disregard the Ride Along

“Instead of giving them a
fish to eat, teach them how to fish.”

old adage perfectly describes the essence of sales management, particularly when
working with sales representatives in the field.

All too often, however, the process of working directly with the sales force in
a professional, scheduled and hands-on manner is neglected. Everyone loses in
this situation. The sales force is cheated in the process of learning how to
fish, the responsible manager loses sales performance, and the owner is not
receiving the productivity that is expected.

Far too many sales managers consider “field rides” a hit and miss area of their
job responsibility. Yet, it is one of the most effective ways to both identify
individual problems within the sales force and quickly develop solutions that
will move salespeople forward in their careers.

Personally, I learned one of my greatest career lessons as a rookie sales rep.
After I had failed to set up four qualified prospect appointments, which my
manager requested, he walked away from me while we were in the field. I spent
the remainder of the day seeking out a fourth prospect.

When I returned to the office, I asked him why he left me. He explained that I
had committed to four calls and if I did anything like that again I would be
fired. He taught me how to fish, and I haven’t gone hungry since.

Manager commitment is the key. Below are examples of the correct and incorrect
ways to manage the ride along.

What not to do:

• Find out who has an appointment or two and tell them you are going to ride
with them with little warning.

• Jump from one appointment to another without a clear understanding between
both of you to determine the purpose and objective of the next call.

• Take over the meeting and sell the deal for the rep (give them a fish).

• Fail to coach and counsel what happened after each call.

How to make it work:

The first and most important step is to make a decision to accept responsibility
to develop and stick with a simple and effective ride along program with each
rep. Having made that decision and commitment, set up a simple program:

• Create a monthly calendar devoted to the program. Plug in the name of each rep
on a specific date four to six weeks in advance.

• Notify each rep that you expect them to set four appointments for that date.
Ideally, they should schedule one appointment each for an introduction meeting,
a proposal presentation, an in-house demo, and a closing call.

• Take the time to understand each prospect and then develop a strategy and an
objective before each call.

• Use the time between calls to critique, coach and counsel with the rep.

• At the end of the day complete an evaluation critique and rate the rep’s
performance in each important area of the selling process. It helps to have a
check off form. It will serve as a tool to identify problems and recommend
techniques to improve performance.

The bottom line, nonetheless, is without manager commitment this simple and
effective process will fall flat.

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