One of the most widespread tactics of our industry is also the most poorly executed. I’m referring to the joint sales call that occurs when the manufacturer sales representative rides along with the dealer salesperson. Typically, the manufacturer rep makes plans to “be in the area” and suggests the dealer set up a few stops where the so-called product expert (i.e., the rep) can be available to assist in the sales process. The common end result is a sales call that leaves dealers resentful and the contractor unimpressed.

I recall my early years as a dealer salesman. I had just started gaining career momentum and was a popular candidate for ride-along selling at my branch due to my ability to string together a series of planned appointments with interested buyers. Problems arose when I discovered that my manufacturer sales “partners” were sometimes less knowledgeable than I about product applications in the field. Worse yet, I felt they were riding on my coattails, always eager to meet my clients while failing to bring in any leads to hold up their end of the partnership.

Eventually I became a manufacturer sales rep and, at that point, knew what it was like to interact with ineffective ones. I started driving leads to my dealers instead of asking them to invite me on ride-along calls. I recognized other methods to improve our effectiveness as a team. Ultimately I discovered keys to team selling that I preach to this day. Here they are:

1. Create a game plan. Prior to the sales call, both salespeople should agree on a desired outcome. They should additionally decide who will “lead” a sales call. Nothing irritates a buyer more than two salespeople continually interrupting each other. (This is a lesson for sales managers, too!) This doesn’t mean that the “second” sits silently like a dummy. Instead, that person should follow the leader and accept opportunities to interject comments when the meeting leader hands over the reins.

2. Switch roles to produce credibility. The builder expects the manufacturer sales rep (let’s call him Joe) to brag about the product while the dealer rep (Sam) talks about service. The more powerful presentation occurs when the manufacturer sales rep says, “Mr. Builder, I appreciate you meeting us. I could brag all day long about my products. But instead, I want to tell you that I work with many dealers throughout the region and Sam is by far the best dealer rep I’ve ever worked with.” Sam then might say, “Wow. Thanks, Joe. Funny, but I was thinking I could have brought along any number of vendors. Mr. Builder, I chose to bring Joe along today because his company is by far the best in terms of product and service of any vendor in the market today. And Joe gets things done for me … and you!” The power of this role reversal is the credibility that results from unbiased compliments.

3. Both sides must bring leads. A manufacturer sales rep who can’t bring a lead to the table is just a professional visitor. Give this page to your manufacturer reps. Tell them I told you it angers me when manufacturer reps don’t bring leads to their dealers. I’ll yell at them for you so you don’t have to. Lead generation is job one!

A properly conducted joint sales call produces powerful unity between the manufacturer and dealer representative that a buyer will readily embrace. The end result is strong sales bonds up and down the channel—and a lot more fun selling in the field!