The Ride Along
Recent events in Waco (9 killed in biker war at Waco, Texas restaurant) remind me of smaller conference room skirmishes that happen every day. Consider this scene.
The curtain opens to show a Conference Room on floor 34 of the big bank building. There are 8 people gathered around a long table.
The well dressed woman at one end looks at a piece of paper, “Next item, our new field brochures.” She turns to the man on her left, “Will you please hand those out?”
Immediately, one of the recipients wrinkles up her nose. “This looks great, but it doesn’t have our current promo rate.”
The room shifts in their seats.
“You know the reps are looking for a call to action on these things. We always go through this.”
The head of the table sighs, “The executive team decided that we aren’t going to sell rate anymore. It’s a race to the bottom. We need to sell value. Our hands are tied on this. This was the brochure and tagline they approved.” She hated introducing things out to the sales team.
The sales manager pushes back from the table and crosses her arms, “I’m telling you, as beautiful as these are, they’re just going to gather dust. The reps won’t use them.”
“That’s your job. This is the direction we’re going. You need to get your reps on board.”
After a tense moment, everyone in attendance pulls their weapons and starts pounding each other. It’s chaos.
The curtain falls. End scene.
Where does sales and marketing strategy break down? It’s between the big idea and day to day execution.
Enter the ride along.
Sales managers will recognize the tactic. When we come up with ways of moving from high level strategy to planning the day to day execution, it’s a tactic I want marketing to use.
First, let’s define a ride along. The ride along tactic is used by a sales manager to see a sales rep in action. Whether that’s a physical ride in a car from appointment to appointment, or sitting in a cubicle with a rep and plugging into a phone call. The goal is to observe the rep and prospect, in a live selling situation, to provide coaching and feedback.
I want you to get your marketing team doing ride alongs in the time after you’ve communicated the firm’s strategy, but before plans are put in action. I have 3 reasons for this.
1. It’s where the future customers are.
Your sales team has direct contact with prospects. One-to-one contact. Your marketing team generates opportunities from one-to-many contact. The ride along lets marketers see and hear firsthand what happens to their messaging when a prospect is moving through the decision process.
2. It gives them first hand knowledge of the front line’s motivation.
In addition to being excellent communicators with prospects and customers, your marketing team should be applying their skills to communications with internal staff. The easiest way for marketers to know how to motivate staff is to force them to spend time understanding the front line’s state of mind. The motto here is No Guessing. Direct observation beats second hand knowledge every time.
3. It helps your best communicators understand where they’re starting from.
Once your leadership team emerges from a strategy session with an outline of your idealized future, having your number one communicators understand where the firm is today in addition to where you want it to be tomorrow will eliminate missteps along the way. They can plot a course with a higher adoption rate. Conference room communication mishaps, like the first part of this article, will be avoided.
What next? Grab your marketing team and let them have it. Continued access to your prospects and customers and a new focus on internal staff and planning. Tell them you want them in the field for the reasons listed above. Give them control of your desired outcomes from the strategy sessions and watch what happens.
I predict good stuff.