role_play-resized-600I had the privilege of speaking at the PERS Summit 2013 a couple weeks ago and heard Josh Garner, president of AvantGuard speak.  He described a process that his company uses to focus on continuous improvement.  They conduct peer audits on a daily basis where peers listen to how they interact with customers and give constructive feedback.

It made me think of how this could be applied in sales.  Of course everything makes me think of how it could be applied in sales.  Anyway, peer audits are easy to conduct in sales if you field an inside sales team.  It’s easy enough to listen in, and provide feedback to one another, and I would strongly encourage it.

An outside sales team is a bit different.   My initial thought was that peer audits for this group could be role playing.  From my experience almost no companies conduct enough role playing.  And, virtually everyone benefits from role playing.  It is a form of peer audit, but isn’t the real thing.

Then I pondered whether it would be beneficial to institute peer audits for real.  In essence, have sales reps ride along with each other every so often and provide feedback.  While you may be conducting ride-alongs as the sales manager, I don’t know of companies that have a formal process for ongoing peer-to-peer ride-alongs, other than in initial training.  I think it could be an interesting concept, but the obvious argument against this practice will be the lost time selling by the ride-along rep.  You may also not have enough reps that you feel are qualified to give advice to others.  (If this is the case it’s time to get new reps or get them ramped up ASAP).

I think it is worth exploring as it provides a different dimension in growth and development and eliminates the obvious burden of sales managers always needing to have all the answers.  It also eliminates the escalation of the importance of the call, which undoubtedly happens when the sales manager is riding along.  Maybe spread the wealth and ask fellow reps to step up and share their expertise and feedback in real world situations.  Maybe all would benefit from each others’ perspectives.

If you aren’t game for instituting this practice, I would strongly encourage you to at least institute a more frequent and regular practice of role playing.  Encourage your reps to learn and develop sales skills from others.