Managing in the Field. How To Make the Most of Your Joint Sales Calls.
To effectively coach a sales person, you must understand how they develop their opportunities. That is why observing your sales people in action is so important. A great sales manager should be spending 60% of their time out in the field running sales calls with their team.
Spending time in the field allows sales managers to observe a number of different sales activities and helps the manager make the determination if his sales people are:
Calling on the right customers
Calling on the right people within those companies
Talking about the right things
Establishing good relationships with those customers
Displaying that they have the right "mechanics"
But before you head out of the office you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of how the meeting is going to run. For you to be an effective addition to the meeting, you need to know what to expect. Here are four areas you need to focus on as manager before walking in to the client.
Who is going to be in the room?
Your sales people need to be able to answer some basic questions to set the stage for you:
Are we going to meet with the decision maker?
Is this a preliminary meeting with an influencer?
How have you qualified the opportunity?
Are we presenting our solutions to a committee?
Do we need to negotiate the terms of the deal?
Are we attempting to close the deal today?
Who else is going to be in the room?
What are the key issues with the account?
Failure to understand where the client is at in the sales process will leave you at a distinct disadvantage during the meeting. You may be too aggressive, causing the client to lose faith in your sales person and resulting in a stalled, or worse yet, lost opportunity. Or you may fail to add any value to the meeting, impacting the client's belief that you are able to impact the result of the negotiations.
Who is doing what during the meeting?
This needs to be decided by the sales person. The sales person has the best visibility into the opportunity and is the best position to determine how you are able to provide the most value to the meeting.
There are two types of joint sales calls. One where the sales person runs the meeting and the sales manager observes, supports the sales person with occasional comments and then provides mentoring after the call. The amount of contribution in this meeting also needs to be discussed so that the sales manager doesn't overshadow the sales person, confuse the customer and impact the forward movement of the opportunity. The other type is where the sales manager leads the entire meeting in order to demonstrate a specific selling skill, for example how to deal with a serious customer support issue, or to provide a win for an inexperienced sales person that is still learning how to sell the product.
Don't save every deal.
This goes against every fiber of a sales manager's being. Choosing to let a sales representative lose a deal when you are conducting a ride along and you know exactly what to do or say to save the deal is one of the hardest decisions a sales manager will make. But making it will make your team stronger in the long run. If a sales manager saves every deal that starts to go bad, he will create a co-dependent situation where the sales person depends on the sales manager to close the deal and the manager enabling that behavior. More work for the sales manager and less work for the sales team, but they continue to get the rewards.
It is important that this decision is made with some thought and not as a quick reaction to how the call is progressing. When making this decision there are a few factors to consider before saving the deal. Could what the sales person is telling the client potentially have legal or policy consequences? Will the progression of events in the call harm the company's or sales person's reputation? Will stepping in damage the credibility of the sales person with the client? Will your action or inaction enhance or impair the sales person's development?
If you decide to step in, it should be done tactfully and then turn the call back to the sales person. When working with my sales team I always established a signal that indicated I had something to say so that I didn't need to interrupt and the sales person could yield the conversation to me. Whenever possible we would also intermix our seating with the other individuals attending the meeting. We did this for two reason. It allowed myself and my sales person to have eye contact during the meeting and it dispelled the us versus them phenomenon that sometimes occurs when each side sits across the table from each other.
Provide quality post meeting mentoring.
Every sales person has areas they can improve on. If you don't mentor your sales person, even your top sellers, after a ride along, you are missing an opportunity to improve your team's results down the road. Evaluate your team members against the standard you have set for them. The published sales process is a good starting point. If the sales person your are riding along with that day is not following the established process, they need to defend the deviation. The client's buying process may require adjusting how they are sold, but evaluating based on this standard reinforces that there is a structure to selling. And the sales process is one such structure designed to provided efficiency in the sales cycle.
For new or struggling sales people it is easy to give a laundry list of items they need to improve on but this will be detrimental to the sales person's development. Identify the one or two items that will give the most improvement in performance if resolved.
Joint sales calls can be an effective means for coaching your team but only if they are only conducted in a way that provides value to the sales rep. Don't forget that as a sales manager, your number one responsibility is to develop your sales people, not to sell for them.