How To Nail A Field Visit
You get the call from your boss'-boss'-boss' personal assistant, the General Manager wants a day in the field with YOU! Read on for my FREE advice on this delicate situation ...
Having your regional manager out with you on a field visit should be a fantastic opportunity for you to get some quality coaching, a chance to pick their brains about successful tactics and usually get treated for lunch. Marvellous!
For most of us a field visit with our regional manager will be a regular occurrence and one that doesn’t demand much more preparation than a typical day. The same cannot be said for a field visit with your Sales and Marketing Director or National Sales Manager (NSM) or other Head Office Big Cheese (HOBC).
Firstly don’t expect your HOBC to necessarily be much good at coaching. They might be brilliant – but don’t bank on it. Likewise don’t expect them to necessarily be any great shakes at selling or even product knowledge. These things aren’t what they are about. (You just might get the free lunch but don’t order anything more expensive than they do or anything fiddly to eat!)
A field visit with a senior manager is a great opportunity for you to prove that you are a fabulously productive member of the team and worth championing. Here’s what you need to do…
Forget the free lunch and the coaching – instead think about how you will leave them with a wonderful impression of you.
Another thing to banish from your brain is the crazily naive notion that you should show them an “average day” (i.e. a day that could turn out to be rubbish) just so they’ll “understand how hard it is out there”. Let some other buffoon sabotage their career demonstrating this. You should aim far higher.
Let’s assume you don’t really know the senior manager coming out with you.
Do your preparation
- Ask them what they want to get out of the day. (Ignore their suggestion about having “an average day” – see above)
- Ask around about their likes and dislikes and any hot topics that they are currently targeting
- Prepare an agenda for the day – get prospecting now to populate your day with appointments. Ideally I would suggest at least one appointment with a new business opportunity, another one or two with a current customer who has just started prescribing/buying and at least one with someone who thinks you are fantastic!
- Consider scheduling an appointment with one of those customers who would be over come with fawning or grovelling at the sight of a senior manager. Or perhaps one who would feel terribly important themselves at the notion of their visit. You know the type!
- Make sure the day doesn’t involve miles of criss-crossing your territory in the car. This time-filling strategy is easily spotted by even the dopiest HOBC and makes you look unprofessional. Focus your activity in 2 or 3 hot areas for business.
- Schedule time for lunch and brief mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks. This is simply good practice and should keep your guest’s blood sugar levels high and their mood positive. They are likely to want to spend some time chatting with you over lunch and at the end of the day too.
- Schedule time for telephone prospecting – there are few things more impressive to senior sales managers than one of their sales people saying something like: “Our next meeting is in an hour – what I plan to do now is prospect for appointments for next month. I have a target list of 20 accounts here and I’m going to sit quietly and call them. It should take me about 45 minutes. You are welcome to listen in or you can go and grab a coffee or make some of your own calls. OK?”
- Write up a punchy version of your CV – bullet points about your sales and industry background and your track record of success. (You can miss out the bits about “reading” and “going to the gym”). Hand it to them during your intro for the day. This little trick is often missed out – but it works brilliantly!
- Get your car cleaned, filled with petrol and stock up the boot with everything you might need. That means literature, samples, demos, your computer, business cards, prospecting folder, diary and phone – not hair gel and your latest 50 Cent CD!
- Make sure your electronic devices are fully charged the night before, especially if they contain your sales materials
On the day
Dress more expensively and conservatively than normal – this sets the right tone (especially if you are considerably younger than your senior manager guest)
Start early and finish late – a lot is said about working smarter rather than harder. Senior managers like smarter and harder. Many are workaholics themselves and are likely to be unimpressed with your encyclopaedic knowledge of “Jeremy Kyle” or “Watercolour Challenge” (late-morning and early-afternoon British TV shows!).
Explain the day ahead – take them through your CV or allow them to digest it. Then take them through your agenda – explaining your business rationale behind each appointment and what you hope to achieve in each call.
Explain how today fits in to your overall territory strategy – senior managers love over arching strategy broken down into daily actions. At this point watch their face for sheer pleasure!
If you are particularly good at something or have developed a winning strategy yourself, let them know: “I pride myself in always having at least 60 future appointments with target surgeries in my diary at any one time – I know it’s not what we are targeted with but it works for me” or “I have a plan that I always have lunch in one of my hospitals and always sit next to a member of staff – not necessarily a customer but always a doctor, nurse or pharmacist – I find it’s a useful networking tool”. Anywhere where you set standards for yourself that are over and above company minimums; let ‘em know, as this will mark you out as an over achiever.
Ask how they would like to be introduced to your customers. Explain that you wish to maintain your authority and credibility in front of your customers and still ensure that they receive the respect due to them.
Come across as a respectful business equal – they are in charge of a salesforce (or whatever) and you are in charge of a territory. There is no need to be subservient … but obviously avoid arrogance too!
Show them how selective you are – for example deliberately drive past a surgery and explain why we won’t be stopping there today and instead have chosen to go elsewhere
Throw in some background colour – when talking about a customer casually mention that he does his mother and toddler clinic on a Thursday or that he works the first Tuesday in every month at A&E. Your attention to detail and local knowledge will sound very impressive.
Demonstrate how you go beyond the norm – e.g. tell your senior manager that although this customer sees other reps at 11am we are seeing him in the afternoon as he is generally less rushed then and we shall be able to have a more detailed and productive conversation. This smarter-than-the-average-rep approach is just what he’ll be looking for.
Talk about your ambition and commitment to personal development – Explain how much you get out of the facebook groups you belong to and reading tips from your friend Ian Chamberlain!!
Ask about them – show you’ve done your research and also ask about their hopes, strategies, what will define success for them and how they like to talent spot and succession plan.
Accept their feedback with a “thank you.” – Their feedback as ever, says as much about them as it does about you. This is very useful information. Thank them for it.
Follow up your field visit with a thank you email outlining the day – copying in your Regional Manager
Suggest some brilliant and original ideas:
“Why not do a league table of which representative gets the most Christmas cards from customers as a way of measuring our customer relationships….?!” (it could be fun!)
Or better still:
“Why doesn’t everyone benefit from Ian Chamberlain’s Access Skills workshops? We should hire him to speak at our annual conference!”