Selling and managing are very different skill sets. At the same time, if you haven’t been successful at selling, it will be difficult to manage salespeople. You’ll have a hard time gaining their trust, giving them insights, coaching them through challenges, and recognizing when they’re not thinking straight about an opportunity if you haven’t been there and done that. As a result, it is common that sales managers are some of the better salespeople in their company.
As great as it is to have been there and done that, it’s also beneficial to stay current. One way to do so is to give up some of your time for scheduled ride-alongs. While a ride-along could entail the sales manager’s direct involvement in the selling process, this should only be the case when it’s truly appropriate and planned ahead of time. Resist the temptation in interject with your own expertise because imposing only undermines your salesperson, which is damaging to any mutual trust and respect you’ve garnered with them.
The main purpose for a ride-along is for direct observation to inform your debriefing and coaching. Intentionally scheduling ride-alongs in advance with your salesperson can ensure that you’ll be able to sample for variety with your observations. Such an investment of time will return useful knowledge about current industry trends and client perspectives as well as what developmental areas would be worthwhile to focus on with your salespeople. Without a real grasp of the current market, your coaching could be misinformed and you could be teaching your team outdated strategies. When the purpose of a ride-along is truly to observe, the trick is to have both your ears turned on and your mouth turned off. It’s challenging to speak and observe at the same time.