Why Every Field Sales Manager Should Prioritize and Make the Time for This Key Activity
It is Thursday evening, finally it is that golden time sitting on the plane heading home after a week that started at home with conference calls all day Monday, early morning wake up and flight on Tuesday morning, landing in yet another city and running to get a rental car, dodging fate again and safely getting to the first appointment of many over a few days together with a member of your sales team, and then an all-out sprint for the next few days.
The time is usually filled with numerous sales calls and if in medical sales, time with that team member can be spent in the Operating Room, physician offices, C-Suite meetings, dinners, business reviews, in-services, reviewing reports, drive time. Early mornings and late evenings. The time is usually very productive and as a manager, if you’re not worn out there is usually an issue.
So back to that moment, the plane takes off. The mind starts to wander towards tomorrow. Friday and all the calls scheduled to catch up with peers cross-functionally, projects to work on, and administrative tasks.
The boss has their own objectives as well that need to be accomplished for their management team members. Monday it all starts all over again. When will the field coaching report get done? Then the negative talk starts……Do I really need to do this report? Will my team member even notice? They have been with the company a while, what do they need to learn? Why do I even really need to do this anyway?
Why? Because coaching is where the magic happens. Statistics show that coaching improves sales, ROI, reinforces the skills of representatives, and employee retention.
I get it. It is hard, especially when exhaustion hits. But below are a few best practices that do not take a long time but go a long way when it comes to coaching:
T–Time management is key to fitting in coaching. Instead of turning on a movie during that flight home, take out the computer and complete a field coaching report. One, it will take half the time because the mind is fresh from what was just experienced in the field. Two, how good will it feel going into Friday having this done. Three, the longer it takes to get the coaching report back, the less detailed it will be. Therefore, lessening the legitimacy and the impact from the representatives’ perspective.
R–Review the coaching report with your team member instead of emailing it out. 30 minutes is a short period of time, that can make a huge difference to that team member. This should overall be a very positive call, going over specific observables, not just of the team member, but of customers as well. Areas of opportunity to expand the business include corporate resources, events, or activities that can help support the representative’s territory. Also, if there are areas of improvement and that need to be made, it is much better to talk it through together, in a collaborative manner on what is going to change, how it going to be done, the support needed and an agreement that it is going to be done.
Y–Yes to change! Neuroscience shows that people want and feel compelled to change when they perceive there is some knowledge gap. At the end of a field ride-along, ask your team member, “what would you like to work on?” It is usually 100% spot on with what is observed. Since it came from that individual, how much more willing will the person be to work on these areas? Much more!! Have 2-3 specific follow-up items on the coaching report. Then have these follow-up items on the coaching report with dates to follow up together to see the progress made.
Accountability needs to be made by both the manager and representative equally.
How can we as managers ask our team members to continue to excel in their positions if we do not do this key exercise to support their growth?
As leaders, let’s T.R.Y. to do more coaching, do fewer activities that take us away from being with our team members in the field, and make formal coaching reports a consistent best practice if not already being done. Our team members deserve our best.