You Don’t Always Have to Offer Improvement (A Note to the Sales Manager)

Sales managers often make the mistake of actually making the call for their salesperson when they were supposed to be riding along. Instead of learning how to help the salesperson by observing, they sell instead. Because they have done so, they can’t really offer their salesperson any advice as to how they might improve.

But this mistake can work the other way too. Sometimes a sales manager always offers advice and direction that might help the salesperson improve their performance. The problem is that finding areas to improve is not the only way—or the best way—to help a salesperson improve.

It’s Easy to Find Something Wrong

When you exercise the discipline and the self-restraint to allow your salesperson to make the call, you can do a much better job of observing them. This is what a sales manager should do on a sales call, unless other arrangements have been made and they are taking a role.

By observing the salesperson, you can learn a lot about how they sell. You can discover the areas in which the salesperson might improve. You can see their mistakes. You can generate different questions that the salesperson might have asked, or different value creating statements. You can find cues that the salesperson didn’t pick up. You can always identify things that you would have done differently, were it your call. (STOP! Think about that last sentence.)

You are supposed to find areas for improvement. That’s why you ride along in the first place, so you can learn how to help your salesperson improve. But this by itself isn’t right, and it isn’t enough.

It’s easy to find what’s wrong. It’s easy to offer improvement. But you could add a different set of tools to your toolbox. You could, from time to time, take a very different and confidence building approach.

Catch Them Doing Something Right

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for changing behavior. But it is too rarely used on a ride-along because we are too focused on finding areas for improvement. You don’t always need to offer direction or coaching on what needs “fixed.”

You need to catch your salespeople doing all the things that they do well.

Instead of focusing on the mistakes that were made or what might be improved, focus your attention on finding everything that your salesperson does well. Don’t focus only on the deal and how it might be won. Invest your attention in all of the healthy behaviors and positive actions that the salesperson takes.

During your curbside sales conference, roll out the positive reinforcement. You might say: “You did an excellent job on that sales call. Your opening was strong. It was clear that you had done your homework. You really helped them understand their needs, and you made that call valuable for the prospect. It’s no wonder he so easily agreed to the advance that you asked for when the meeting came to close. Keep it up!”

This builds confidence. A good coach—or a good manager—has the ability to use positive reinforcement to improve performance, as well as knowing when someone needs tough love.

Here is one more point along this same line. Your salesperson can’t improve the 12 things you identified that need improving. When you do have ideas for improvement, suggest them one at a time. If they need a stronger opening, just help the salesperson deal with that. It isn’t helpful to give them a massive list of improvements while you are sitting in a parking lot. Just make notes on what needs improved, and work on them over time.

You don’t always have to offer improvements. Sometimes you can just notice what is working and build your sales team’s confidence. Both you and your salesperson will benefit from positive reinforcement.


What is the purpose of a ride along?

How do you help your salespeople improve by joining them on sales calls?

Reflect on you’re the last few calls you made with your sales team. Was the advice you offered all around their improvement?

How often do you use positive reinforcement to help your team improve it’s performance?

How do you catch salespeople doing something right?

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Filed under: Sales

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