Rules of the Road
The components of a successful ride-with are simple: Communication, sensitivity and respect
A well-played, well-prepared ride-with is a thing of beauty. The distributor rep typically has the relationships, the manufacturer rep has the technical knowledge. Together they can create a well-oiled selling machine. Of course, there are some things to watch out for, most often, overzealousness on the part of either, or both. But with good communication, sensitivity and mutual respect (for each other and the veterinarian customer), distributor and manufacturer reps can avoid the common mistakes and let the selling begin.
The ride reasons
There are really two primary, intertwined reasons for ride-withs, according to those with whom Veterinary Advantage spoke: First, to provide the veterinary practice with technical knowledge and resources that the distributor might lack, and second, to strengthen the working relationship of the manufacturer and distributor rep.
Most of the time, ride-withs are initiated by the manufacturer rep. That’s particularly true for manufacturers whose reps carry huge territories, and who have no chance of building any kind of relationship with veterinary practices on their own. They’re equally valuable for small companies that lack the resources to place reps in the field.
Before the call
Successful ride-withs begin before the face-to-face with the veterinarian or practice manager, according to the reps with whom Vet-Advantage spoke. In fact, the best dances begin with choosing the right partner.
Day-long ride-withs aren’t always necessary to build trust, product knowledge or sales, according to those with whom Vet-Advantage spoke. True, there is value for the distributor rep in spending a full day with the manufacturer, in terms of reinforcing product knowledge and building relationships. But it doesn’t always make sense. “I might have to tell [the manufacturer rep], ‘I don’t have any good targets this afternoon, but you’re free to ride with me,’” says McFerren. Often the manufacturer will take that cue to call on other accounts instead.
The in-car briefing
A successful ride-with depends on the manufacturer being sensitive to the account on which he and the distributor rep are calling, according to those with whom Vet-Advantage spoke. A manufacturer rep who doesn’t understand the nuances, sensitivities and, yes, peculiarities, of a particular account risks being a bull in a china shop. It’s up to the distributor rep to make sure that the manufacturer rep has that sensitivity. That often comes from an in-car briefing, often in the customer’s parking lot.