You’re traveling with a sales rep and you’re both making sales calls. You are the sales manager. What is your role? This is not as easy as it would appear. Most sales managers used to be salespeople so they are naturally gregarious and outgoing. Given the chance to expound on product, the weather, sports, the company and/or industry most sales managers are ready to comment.
A sales call is different, however. You walk into a prospect’s office or a current customer’s office and you do not have responsibility for the sales call. The sales rep does. No matter how many times I traveled with reps I had to remind myself that my role was as an observer. The rep made the sales call.
A legitimate question to ask is, why not take over the call if you as the manager think that you can close the deal? In my opinion that defeats the role that you have as the sales manager. The rep may not handle objections well or they’re talking a blue streak when they should be listening or the prospect is broadcasting buying signals that the rep misses. So if you as the manager bail the rep out then how will this person ever grow enough in their job to handle these situations? They either won’t or it will take them too long to master the techniques to avoid these traps.
So, let’s say the prospect or customer knows that you are the sales manager and directs a question to you. What do you do? Simply say, “I’ll let Sara handle that question.” And then shut up. You gain two things. One, the prospect knows who is handling the sales call and the rep knows that you have confidence in them.
Your role as a sales manager comes into play after the sales call. Whatever the rep did right or wrong in the call should be addressed in a coaching session after the sales call. The time to do that is immediately after the call not two days afterward in a memo. Talk through what the rep could have done differently and role play some scenarios.
For those of you who are regular visitors to this site you know that I usually have a caveat or two. Here they are. If a sales rep is really bombing the sales call by promising new products that are still in the design stage, creating a new pricing policy on the spot or making complete nonsense statements about a product then you as the sales manager need to step in with a reality check. The best way to do that is to wait for a pause and then insert a comment that brings whatever the rep said into proper perspective.
If the rep asks you for some feedback to answer a question then it’s your responsibility to respond. Not to do so would be insanity.
The last caveat is a situation where one question to the prospect/customer could open up a different line of dialogue, which potentially could lead to a close. If the rep doesn’t ask that one question then, at the right time and in the right manner, you ask it. Then let the rep handle the rest of the call.
The Final Thought: The truth is every sales manager needs to be a coach first.