Giving good feedback is a vital skill for all sales managers and leaders. Without a true commitment to honest and thorough feedback, sales employees won’t know if they’re on the track to success or failing in the critical area. But giving feedback isn’t enough – you need to know how to give clear, effective feedback for it to be mutually beneficial. Today we will guide you in the art of giving feedback in sales.
Why Feedback in Sales is Valuable
The importance of direct and regular feedback in sales can be overlooked easily. After all, unlike many professions, sales reps have regular hard numbers they have to hit. If they’re hitting those numbers, they are probably doing a good job. Or so the conventional thinking goes.
But there’s more to being a great sales rep than just the numbers.
Your sales team members need to have other skills to truly succeed, such as to:
- work as part of a team
- learn to serve and support customers
- build your organization up in your industry or markets
- and develop leadership skills that will serve them later in their careers
Many skills needed for sales success are soft skills – hard to measure with objective numbers, but no less necessary. Providing regular feedback to employees helps ensure they’re developing those crucial skills along their career path.
How to Give Good Feedback
Giving feedback well, especially in sales, is an art. It can be intimidating at first – but it gets easier with practice.
The first place to start is by giving feedback frequently. Once each year at performance reviews isn’t enough – your sales reps need to know how they’re doing throughout the year. This means offering feedback when an employee makes a misstep, and also when they make progress.
Negative feedback is important
Providing negative feedback is challenging, but widely accepted as part of the role of a sales manager or leader. The key to delivering negative feedback that works to change behavior without damaging employee morale comes in four parts.
It’s in the how
Give feedback on a behavior, not a personality trait. It’s more helpful (and kinder) to note how you noticed an employee speaking over others in the recent sales team meeting, instead of telling them they’re too loud or bossy. The latter leads to shame, which makes change hard, while the former gives a concrete behavior to address and change.
Deliver constructive criticism – tell the team member what they’re doing wrong, and offer suggestions for how to fix it.
For example, you could use your own personal experience, i.e. how you overcame an issue or solved a problem, to give specific examples and ideas to which your salesperson can relate.
Acknowledge that receiving negative feedback is difficult, and thank your sales rep for listening to the constructive criticism and taking it in. Emphasize that you are offering this critique to help them, not hurt them. This builds trust, which can help them perform their best in the future.
Be an expert on the action plan
As a sales leader, you know the actions and steps required to address issues in performance. So, be prepared to discuss those steps and agree collaboratively on the action plan.
You can do this by asking questions rather than simply stating “what you need to do”. This is another way to build trust and gain commitment from the individual. These are great sales coaching opportunities that establish you as a leader who not only holds people accountable, but who is in it for everyone’s success.
Positive feedback- often is key
Offering positive feedback is less fraught, but it’s no less important. Letting your sales reps know when they’re doing something right helps reinforce good behaviors. It’s most powerful to recognize good behaviors in the moment – during or after a successful sales meeting or an important deal closes, or when an internal project finishes.
Offering positive reinforcement is critical when you have had to deliver negative feedback to a sales rep too. That means noticing when they make an effort to adjust their behavior from a negative one to a positive one. They will feel noticed and appreciated when they make progress, and that helps make the progress and positive behaviors stick.
The same guidelines that we mentioned above apply for positive feedback. This means being specific, noticing behaviors and not personality traits, and being constructive. And positive feedback should be delivered more frequently than negative feedback – at least three times as frequently is a good rule of thumb.
That doesn’t mean you should over-praise your underperforming employees. With any sales reps who are in serious trouble of not living up to the standards of your organization, serious and frequent conversations need to occur.
But for most employees, tilt the balance more heavily towards conversations of positive feedback so they feel like they’re being noticed for what they do right, and not only what they do wrong.
Feedback in the Sales Industry
The guidelines to giving good feedback apply to nearly every field. But for sales leaders and sales managers, you should go beyond general feedback.
As stated previously, drawing on your previous experience as a sales rep is helpful – you know much of what it’s like to be in your employee’s shoes. But don’t make the mistake of assuming everyone would act like you did. And situations may be very similar without being exactly the same.
Tying the behaviors you’re trying to encourage or discourage to the broader goals of the company can make the reason behind your feedback clearer and also make the employee feel more connected to the company.
For example, if one of your sales reps isn’t following the proper sales processes, just telling them to use the processes might not be an effective way to change their behavior. Telling them the big picture behind why they need to follow the processes – to keep the vision of the company and the products or services you offer aligned and consistent – can help promote adherence to the positive behavior.
Get Coaching for Feedback in Sales
If you’re a sales manager or leader who is uncomfortable offering feedback, especially when it’s negative, it doesn’t mean you’re not an effective leader. Most managers need help learning how to offer feedback on a regular basis when they’re new in their positions.
This discomfort can be alleviated with the right sales leader coaching. A coach can show you how to offer both positive and negative feedback, help you practice delivering feedback so you become experienced with it, and develop other critical sales leadership skills.
360 Consulting Can Help
360 Consulting provides the tools to improve your sales organization, from sales leader coaching to sales process improvements.
We work well with companies in all industries ranging from small to mid-size enterprises that have large sales teams and multiple managers. And finally, we understand that every sales team has unique challenges and needs a custom solution to address them.
To expedite meeting and exceeding your sales goals, it might be time to call in reinforcements. Schedule a free consultation here to find out how we help sales teams break sales records.