One-on-one sales coaching between the manager and rep is a necessity. And one under-utilized methodology is the ride along. Managers often see it as just a last resort for struggling reps. Reps dread them. But they can be a gold mine for real, productive coaching.
That’s the topic of the latest Field Sales Leadership Guide podcast by Map My Customers. Kevin Dunbrack, Chief Operating Officer of Canadian veterinary supply company McCarthy & Sons, sits down with JT Rimbey of Map My Customers and discusses his background and how he leads his team. Uniquely, he leans heavily on ride alongs and has an unusual take on building company culture and which kinds of sales calls his reps take him on. Check out some of his messaging and how you can apply it to your own sales team and their endeavors.
Don’t Fear the Ride Along
Sales ride alongs have developed a negative stigma. Reps dread them because they think it’s just an opportunity to be gotcha’d by their boss. Perhaps that reputation is well-earned because it’s often used as a last resort to help a struggling rep.
The ride along could stand to be performed with positive intentions more frequently. Coaching sessions and ride alongs should energize your team and reassure them that you’re in their corner, you’re for them. Kevin Dunbrack talks about having a culture at McCarthy & Sons where his reps don’t feel their goal is to prove themselves to him, but that he as the leader acknowledges them as the smart ones, as he says, the ones with “feet on the street,” who are the experts on the market, the products, and the clients and their needs, and he’s just there to help them if they need it.
Take a Different Approach to Picking Your Ride Alongs
When a manager asks to go for a ride along with a rep, most reps will invite their manager to an account they’re excelling at. An easy one that makes them look good in front of their boss. But on the contrary, Kevin Dunbrack says he goes along with his reps to accounts they’re having difficulties with.
On the podcast, you’ll hear Kevin briefly share about his background in sports and how that fostered in him a knack for collaboration and problem solving. JT Rimbey draws a parallel between that bent in him and his unconventional move to go on ride alongs with his reps to accounts they’re struggling with. The reps in fact are the ones that make the choice to invite him on these calls, which goes to show how he and his reps view each other as on each other’s team and that he genuinely wants to help his reps improve.
Kevin says on these ride alongs to calls where his rep is hitting a hurdle, “I stand back quietly and listen and let [the pitch] play out, then there are things I can pick up on—body language, posturing” that the client is expressing that the rep is missing because they’re so focused on their pitch.
The Value of Ride Alongs
One-on-one, personalized coaching with each rep is important, and ride alongs are a great way to accomplish that. According to research, 75% of sales coaching is random and ineffective, plus there’s lots of pressure in sales jobs. Reps don’t need more of that to come from you. Create a fun, team culture, and demonstrate to them that you’re in their corner by giving effective coaching. See this Map My Customers post for some one-on-one sales coaching templates.
Sales coaching is more likely to stick if it’s very practical. If a manager rides along and observes something, he or she can speak to that specific thing. Therefore a ride along is more practical and powerful than generic sales training. It’ll also allow you to observe in real time how a rep is doing, rather than just relying on data and their secondhand retelling.
But don’t surprise a rep with a ride along. Give advanced notice so they can schedule a representative sales call or day of calls that they want you around for. Then when the time comes, establish with the rep ahead of the call, what it will look like. Will the manager just be a passive observer, will the rep be a passive observer and let the manager take charge, or will both be driving the sale together?
When you get to the call, tell the client what’s going on, why the manager is there, and how involved they’ll be. Get that out of the way so the client can hopefully be undistracted by that and just focus on the pitch.
If you’re the manager, resist the urge to take over. Unless you’ve both agreed beforehand that that’s something you can do, this will only serve to frustrate and demotivate your rep. Giving your rep a chance to work through on their own if they get stuck will be empowering. These are valuable learning opportunities and doing otherwise will make the rep dependent on you.
Give the episode a listen now and see what you can glean and apply to your own sales ride alongs, coaching, and helping reps overcome obstacles in the sales process.