Best Way to Carry Out Effective ‘Field’ Training as a Sales Manager

Every sales manager should spend a large part of his or her time accompanying their sales people on sales visits. These visits should be field training time. There is a tendency for many sales managers to concentrate their visits on the new and less experienced people, allowing the experienced ones to get on with it alone. While more of your time should be spent with the newer people, the others should not be forgotten because unknown to you they may be falling into bad selling habits.

Field visits should be motivating and well planned. They should be seen by the sales reps as an opportunity to develop their skills. Unfortunately too many people consider them to be a punishment. This is entirely due to the attitude of the manager.

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Planning field visits

You should plan your visits one month in advance and give your representatives as much notice as possible. Why not give each a copy of your visit schedule? Although you should not interfere with your sales reps’ own plans, you can suggest to them any specific customers or prospects that you would wish to visit.

Although you will probably spend more time with the less experienced people, you should try to arrange at least one visit per month with each of your salespeople.

Before each day’s accompaniment, discuss the programme and objective with each sales executive concerned. This will help both of you to have a more productive day.

What are the objectives of field visits?

  • To ascertain the reps’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • To determine training needs.
  • To monitor the results of previous training.
  • To motivate the salesperson.

Golden rules of field visits

  • Spend the whole day with one representative.
  • Allow the person to decide where to meet you.
  • Keep quiet during sales interviews unless invited to contribute.
  • Never jump in to try to ‘save’ a sale. You will benefit more in the long term by helping the rep.
  • Do not make notes during a sales interview.
  • Discuss each interview as soon as possible after it has concluded.

At the sales interview

One of the major problems that sales managers experience is how to conduct themselves during a sales interview.

Introduction: Ideally you should be introduced as a colleague for once the customer realises your position, he or she will talk to you rather than the sales person.

  • Seating: If possible sit slightly behind your rep and out of the customer’s direct eye-line.
  • Control: Ensure that control of the interview remains with the rep.
  • Questions: If asked a question, refer back to the salesman to provide the answer. Do not ask any questions.
  • Opinions: Do not be tempted to give your opinions even when asked to do so.

Post interview assessment

This should happen as soon as possible after the interview. Traditionally, it takes place in the car. However, the proximity between the two people can be too close for a relaxed assessment. It may be better to hold the discussion over a cup of coffee.

You should not take written notes at the interview, however, it is useful to have a checklist to use during the assessment. The checklist will provide you with an ‘aide memoire’ and as a means of rating each part of the interview. A good assessment should contain the following:

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  • Ask the rep’s opinion of the interview.
  • If the rep’s opinion differs from yours, ask questions.
  • Praise the good points.
  • Ask the rep what they could do to improve the poorer points.
  • Offer suggestions for improvements only when necessary.
  • Agree your ratings with the rep.
  • Agree an action plan for future visits and/or training.

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