Profiting from contractor ride-alongs
Do you ever wonder if your technicians and salespeople are doing what you want them to be doing in the field?
Do you ever wonder if your technicians and salespeople are doing what you want them to be doing in the field? If you are like pretty much every other contractor, you question: how effective your training is, if your team members are using the systems you provide them with and if they are following the desired processes and procedures.
When you want to know what’s reallyhappening in the field, the best way to find out is by implementing a ride-along system in your company. When I am doing onsite consulting, I like to go on ride-alongs in order to find out the real truth. Many times, the company’s brand isn’t being communicated effectively, sales processes are only being done halfway and techs aren’t connecting with customers as well as they could be. I always uncover so much potential for increased profit and conversion rates.
Another great thing about ride-alongs is you get instant real-world, real-time examples to use when training your other team members. It lifts training credibility to another level since you aren’t talking about hypothetical sales situations; you are talking about what’s happening now, in your market, with your clients.
At The Blue Collar Success Group, we break a lot of our sales and marketing training into three units: before, during and after units. This applies to the ride-along process, too. The beforeunit is letting your tech know what will be happening and how you are going to approach the ride-along. The duringunit is the ride-along itself and the observation phase. The afterunit is when the real magic happens — when you are coaching your tech and using what you saw on the call to help him, as well as your other team members, improve his sales skills.
I’ll go into a little more detail about the three aspects of the ride-along:
1. The before unit. It’s important to set yourself and your technician up for success. Most techs get at least a little nervous when they find out someone is going to be riding along on a call with them. Even if they are excited to learn and grow, they still get a little anxious, which is normal.
You should explain to your tech that he needs to go about business as usual on the call and you will not try to interfere. I have seen the best results come from ride-alongs where the manager (or trainer/consultant) has minimal interaction in the sales process during the call; he is simply an observer. Using this method, the manager gets to perceive the entire sales process more objectively. I know, it’s hard not to help your technicians at the time, but you need to see what really happens in the field when you aren’t there with them.
2. The during unit.When you arrive at the client’s home, have the tech introduce you as a helper, assistant, etc. She was probably only expecting one person to show up, and you want your tech to have the authority on the call in the eyes of your client, since he will be the one presenting options. The client never seems to mind having an extra person on the job.
Remember, you can definitely talk to the client and help build rapport, but stay out of the sales process itself. This gives your tech the chance to shine (and also reveal areas of weakness); you don’t want him leaning on you to help him sell the job. This is about improving your overall outcome and bottom line, not focusing on one short-term sale.
It’s also helpful to take notes on a small notepad or your phone regarding specific things to reference when going over the call later. Before your follow-up coaching, you will want to be prepared with exact details to discuss and questions to ask your tech.
3. The after unit. As I mentioned before, this is the best part of a ride-along, because you have the chance to really improve your team member’s performance and sales skills. This is the part when good communication skills are crucial; you never want your tech to feel as if he is being ridiculed or belittled. This isn’t about just looking for what went wrong; it’s about finding out what is going well in the field, while simultaneously uncovering growth opportunities.
First, let your tech break down the call and get a feel for his perspective. Then, give your feedback, including specific examples of what took place.
Once you’ve uncovered these areas of opportunity, have your tech give feedback about what he believes he can do differently on future calls to prevent certain things from happening again. Always be sure to come from the standpoint that this coaching is to helptechs improve their skills, not to criticize them. Assist them in understanding how little adjustments to their process and mindset can make them exponentially more effective when interacting with clients.
What happens following the after unit coaching session? This is quite important as far as the effectiveness of the entire ride-along process. This is when you hold your technicians accountable for the things you discussed in the coaching meetings. Then, have quick follow-up meetings with them to see how they are maximizing what they learned.
I also bring up examples from ride-alongs at sales meetings, because if one person is struggling with a certain aspect of the sales process, it’s likely that others are, too. Most techs are fine with sharing what happened on their ride-along, and actually appreciate the feedback and support their peers give them in the meeting. They can talk about their experience, what they learned and what they are doing differently.
One of my favorite ride-along teaching points stemmed from when I was on a plumbing call at my company with a successful technician. We walked in and out of the house (several times) through the garage. In the garage, on a shelf, was a huge supply of bottled water. I maintained my role as the observer, then in the follow-up coaching, I asked my tech: “Did you notice what was on the shelf in the garage?” He hadn’t noticed the unusually large amount of bottled water, which was a huge missed chance to discuss a water filtration system with that client.
The lesson is fairly obvious. Additional opportunities exist on every call, you just need to be looking for it. This was a great example and a great lesson to share with our other team members.