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We recently introduced the Sales Coaching Best Practices Series—a mini-series designed to highlight the high-gain coaching activities that EcSell Institute—a research firm specializing in sales coaching, leadership, and management—has identified through their research as having the greatest impact on a sales rep’s ability and willingness to produce at higher levels. We’ve already dug into One-to-One Sales Meetings and Sales Team Meetings, so check them out in case you missed them.
Today we’re discussing Joint Sales Calls—an opportunity for a sales manager to observe a rep during a live selling scenario. These “ride-along” situations are critical to skill development because they allow the manager to see firsthand where coaching needs to be focused, and the feedback is more likely to stick and get applied since reps connect it directly to their daily reality. In other words, salespeople are more likely to do what they are coached to do rather than what they’re trained to do.
Follow these 3 tips to execute joint sales calls with the biggest impact.
Create a Plan Before the Call
As with sales calls themselves, the key to a successful joint sales call is being properly prepared. In fact, this exercise will serve to reinforce the pre-call planning that reps should be doing with their prospects on a regular basis.
Have your salesperson create a plan ahead of time that you can review and adjust as needed. The plan should provide the manager with the following information:
- The role the manager will play on the call—This will vary depending on the customer, salesperson, or purpose of the call but it needs to be clarified before the call takes place.
- Key logistical details—Who are we calling on? Is it a decision maker? Is this a preliminary meeting with an influencer? What is the purpose of the meeting?
- The pre-call plan—The rep and the manager should be clear on the customer’s desired outcome and be prepared with questions and ideas that will be discussed. The larger the opportunity, the more detail that is required.
It can be helpful to role-play the appointment to be sure that the plan is understood by both parties.
Resist the Urge to Takeover
Stepping in to course correct during the call will be a temptation. But sales managers who take over the meeting will not only frustrate and demotivate their reps, they will also rob them of valuable learning opportunities. Swooping in too often creates dependency rather than enablement.
A manager’s purpose on a joint sales call is to position the rep to succeed in front of the customer. If intervention is absolutely necessary, approach it in a way that presents a learning opportunity for the rep.
For example, if your salesperson skips ahead without clarifying the decision making process, interject in a way that contributes to the dialogue, without taking over: “Mary, I may have missed this in the conversation, can you walk us through the typical process for deciding on something like this?”
Provide Useful Feedback
The level of your salesperson’s performance improvement hinges on the post-call debrief, and how you deliver your feedback. Use this Joint Call Check-In (or one that you create on your own) to evaluate how the salesperson performed within each step of the sales process. This information can then be used to gauge where improvements are needed, and to craft a coaching plan focusing on one or two items at a time.
According to a study by Zenger and Folkman, 92% of respondents agreed with the assertion, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.” Great salespeople crave direction from their leaders, but they will be motivated the most with feedback to help them make small adjustments that steer them in the right direction. Hearing that they need to change everything that they’re doing all at once can be discouraging, so give your feedback in bite-sized chunks.
Joint sales calls provide a chance for the strongest, most influential coaching because they don’t require the salesperson to translate hypothetical scenarios to real life. Sales managers can see exactly where coaching needs to be directed, and then deliver it with a real-life, highly relevant reference. Remember that these check-ins are for the purpose of development, so stress that to your team to reduce the pressure of being evaluated.