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Along for the Ride

Losing touch with your reps? Regular ride-alongs can help keep the connection alive.
October 1, 2003

Are you attempting to pilot a sales squad while shackled to your desk? While you may be cranking out an awe-worthy pile of paperwork, succumbing to the never-ending administrative requirements of running a sales team may render you a moribund manager. To truly gauge the health and competence of your sales team, you need to ramp up for habitual field visits with your reps. Why must you relinquish your comfy Aeron roost? Because "behavior can't be changed in a classroom or sales meeting," explains Karen Lund, owner of The Lund Group, a productivity and profitability consulting firm in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here's how to get your mentorship motor running:

Lund concurs, adding that the sales manager's role at the meeting must be active but not principal. "The salesperson is in charge," stresses Lund.

Wally Bock, a Wilmington, North Carolina, consultant who helps small businesses with leadership strategy, believes a ride-along is an ideal time to gather "internal intelligence." He says managers should solicit feedback from reps, including how reps see the company, what the company does that keeps reps from selling as much and as effectively as possible, and what the salesperson thinks needs to be fixed at the company.

Miller cautions there may be some initial resistance from reps when you announce your intentions, but you should "make it clear that field visits are a vital component in determining the direction of the organization, and that visits will occur regularly. Period."

Kimberly L. McCall (aka Marketing Angel) is the president of McCall Media & Marketing Inc. (www.marketingangel. com), a business communications firm in Durham, Maine.