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Opinion: How to ride shotgun on sales calls

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Do you have team members, often salespeople, who are out in the field? Perhaps it’s time to ride along, and see if you can help them get better. Or maybe discover how wonderful they are at their jobs.

Set the salesperson up for success. Don’t treat the ride along as an opportunity to “bust” someone for bad performance. Communicate the purpose of your ride along is to be of service and to get to know each other. Maybe have some fun, solve some problems and help your salesperson be successful.

Suppose you are going to ride along with Joe. Here are a few tips.

Give him a heads up. “Joe, I’m riding with you today! Take 15 minutes to get ready.”

Reduce the anxiety. Joe may say, “You won’t get a real look at how I can perform. You being here changes things.” That’s true to a point. However, Joe will probably do most of what he normally does. We are creatures of habit. Joe has a routine, one that he may not be aware of. Just notice it.

Use a checklist. If you already have created a sales call checklist or procedure, trot it out. If you don’t have one, you may use ride alongs to assemble your first draft. If your checklist is a mile long with a hundred steps, you might create a mnemonic or short cut for remembering the main points. Like the acronym, ODPAF: Open the call – Greet the customer and establish a relationship.

Discovery – Ask good questions and listen closely. Look for needs and wants.

Problem solving – Present product and service options, listing the benefits related to what you discovered.

Ask – You want the sale, so ask for it, and stop talking until the customers says yes or no.

Follow Up – If yes, do as promised. If no, ask a clarifying question.

Note, there are lots of ways to do each step. Your formal checklist may have lots of sub-steps. For so many salespeople, it’s just too much, at least for starters. The main steps are essential. As a sales manager, I would drill the main steps continually, and get the lingo and the process known. This makes it easier to break it down to identifiable and teachable steps. Remember the why of the ride along: to help team members be successful and reach their goals.

Review the checklist on the way to the job. Set Joe up to win by reminding him of the process.

Once you are on the job, be quiet. Let Joe be in charge of the call. Don’t speak unless spoken to. If spoken to, steer the conversation back to Joe. “Joe is the expert. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the field. That’s why I’m tagging along today. Joe, what do you think?”

Review the checklist after the job, and debrief how the job went. Do this in the car as you drive to the next call. If he made the sale, bask in the win, and relive it. Celebrate! If not, discuss what happened.  It’s usually at a skipped or poorly executed step in the process.

Give him one thing to work on. Pick something he did well and could refine or something that may help him. “Joe, you skipped the Discovery step. You didn’t ask any questions. On this next call, remember to ask three helpful Discovery questions.” Role play on the drive to the next call.

Be generous with your love and praise. If Joe is reaching goals, and not violating any policies, he may be just fine doing what he is doing! Thank him for his service. Be willing to give an unconditional, “Well done.”

Good stuff, right? There are a lot of nuances to the ride along. You’ll have your own unique adventures. It’s always worth it to spend one-on-one time with your team members.

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at EllenRohr.com. Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at ellen@ellenrohr.com.

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