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Along for the Ride

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

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This story appears in the October 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

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:

  • Know what you want to learn on the call. Make the most of your time by deciding what you want to know before you jump into the passenger seat. Todd Miller is the founder of SalesHeads.com, an Oklahoma City Internet job board for sales professionals nationwide. Miller suggests determining five to seven key areas of accountability, which may include the rep's presentation skills, the customer's overall satisfaction level, and how happy the client is with the content and timing of the rep's visits.
  • What's the frequency? The timing of field visits will vary, but shoot for a regular schedule. Newer reps may require your tutelage more often (perhaps monthly), while seasoned reps can go longer stretches between check-ins (perhaps quarterly). Miller encourages sales managers to accompany newer reps at least once a month for the first three months, while cautioning that timing will require tweaking to allow "breathing room for the rep and planning time for the manager."

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