Post by
Joy Van Skiver, President
The POWERformance Group

“Selling” Performance in the Field Visit Process


Sales managers are where they are because they have proven their ability to sell. Their titles change from rep to manager, but they’re still selling—they’re “selling” better performance! They can use the same selling habits that made them winners in the field to help them build high performing teams.

Let’s explore just a few parallels we can draw between the selling process and the coaching process.

Fact: Top salespeople plan for each sales call.

Parallel: Top sales managers plan for each field visit.

Ask managers how much effort they and their reps put into pre-visit planning, and you may be surprised to hear, “Not much.” What a missed opportunity! A recent survey of sales managers revealed that only 30 percent felt their pre-visit planning was effective. Some admitted that all they asked the rep to do was list the customers they’d be visiting and the product they were going to highlight.

Considering the heavy emphasis on pre-call planning for reps, it’s ironic that managers don’t do more pre-field-visit planning. Like a sales call, a field visit is an appointment to sell something—that something isn’t a product or a service, it’s better performance.

With new report forms in the cloud, more companies are including a field visit plan as part of the report structure. Having it there is one thing; using it effectively is another.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the most successful managers get the coaching process off to a good start with a solid pre-visit plan in writing. For these people, it’s just a part of what they do every week.

Pre-Visit Planning Has to Be Easy

Lots of managers say, “I don’t have time to do what I’m doing, let alone add another task to my to-do list.” That’s why pre-visit planning has to be easy.

Ideally, the rep and the manager should decide on a plan together. That could be as simple as an email from the manager to the rep with two questions:

  • What do you want my help with?

  • Is there anything in particular you want me to look for?

Or, the manager can put the monkey on the rep’s back and ask for a brief plan for the day. (Most cloud-based report forms are set up for the rep to initiate the plan.) Suppose a rep’s plan is to see four customers who are good candidates for using XYZ. The manager can turn the conversation to behavior with a directive response like this:

Based on what we discussed in our last ride-along, have you prepared targeted questions for each customer? I will be looking for ….

The manager’s coaching response might only be one or two sentences. It’s not the length that matters—it’s the strength.

There’s no reason to leave field visit planning for a discussion first thing in the ride-along morning. This can all be taken care of in writing ahead of time. That allows more time for both selling and coaching.

Fact: Top salespeople focus on “how” in each call.

Parallel: Top sales managers focus on “how” in their field coaching reports.

It would be absurd to sell a product simply by saying, “My product is great. You should buy it.” Top salespeople sell by explaining the “how.”

How the product has worked.

How the customer can use the product.

How it will benefit the customer.

In field coaching reports, managers can explain: