Long-Distance Communications

By Heather Baldwin

It’s tough to pin down a busy sales rep for a one-on-one coaching session. It’s even tougher when that rep is based away from the home office. That is why many sales managers figure if their remotely based reps are making their numbers, there’s no need to take up their time with coaching. That’s a big mistake, says Nino Lamberti, senior partner with Chicago, Illinois-based Corporate Insights (www.corporateinsightsinc.com), a company dedicated to aligning human potential with business strategy. To best manage your remotely located sales reps, Lamberti recommends establishing the following schedule for coaching and communicating with them.

Quarterly. Every three months plan a formal, face-to-face meeting where you and the rep set sales goals. Break the goals into smaller monthly and weekly goals you both can use to gauge progress toward the main goal. During this session, also spend time looking at the rep’s opportunities and working on his or her development. Plan between one and two hours for this meeting. “You’re looking for progress, participation and to leave the rep with a new challenge,” says Lamberti.

Weekly. Schedule about a half hour or so each week to check with the rep on where he or she is supposed to be relative to goals. Find out what challenges the rep is facing and what resources you can provide to help him or her reach the sales goals. This weekly conversation is best done over the phone, says Lamberti, but schedule the call so you’re not taking the rep out of the field for it.

Every other day. Lamberti supports reaching out to everyone you manage at least every other day. It may be just a quick email to say you heard a great report about the rep from the VP of sales who saw him or her in action at a sales call the previous day. Or maybe a note to say: I was thinking of you the other day because John found a great use for our product at a company similar to the one we were talking about. Even a simple note to say you appreciate that the rep always sends expenses in on time is great. Look for ways to grow and recognize your reps, says Lamberti. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time; what’s important is that you reach out and communicate.