LEADERSHIP SERIES: Research suggests that Sales Leadership is the difference maker between good performance and superior performance. And how sales leaders embrace five essential roles is critical to the success of their teams. We hope you find this series of short informal discussions around sales leadership useful and thought-provoking.
The Right Way to Give Feedback to Your Sales Team
As a sales leader, one of your most important tasks is always going to be providing feedback to your team. Whether it’s recognition of something they’ve done well, a request to handle things a little bit differently in the future, or even wanting to know why they aren’t meeting your expectations, the way you interact with your producers in these situations is going to say a lot about the success you’re going to have – or not have – as a manager.
Of course, most of us have found out more than once that these conversations aren’t always as easy as they look. We’ve all been given feedback in a way that was poor, and secretly promised ourselves that we would never make the same mistakes. And yet, once we find ourselves on the other side of the table, it’s incredibly easy to slip into old, unproductive routines.
For that reason, we would like to offer three tips on the right ways to give feedback to your sales team:
Remember the goal. The best sales leaders are never the ones who focus on managing their sales teams, but the ones who concentrate on coaching them. The difference is important: a coach’s job is to reach inside you and pull out the very best of your talent and abilities. Remember that as you interact with your team – it will help you keep things positive and constructive.
Ask more questions. Often, we don’t understand a situation facing our sales team as well as we would like… or as well as we think we do. So, the next time you need to correct a salesperson, try this: instead of making demands, ask a few questions along the lines of “what contributed to thihs?” or “what do you think might have been the issue behind that situation?”
Two great benefits come out of this. First, there’s a good chance you’ll walk away with better insight into the challenge. And secondly, the salesperson’s answers will probably lead them to the right conclusion faster than you could have explained it, and they’ll be more committed to a better outcome because the idea came from them, not from you.
Get specific. Lots of management programs will advise you to “catch your employees doing something right,” and that’s always a good idea. To make it count, though, get beyond simple statements like “good job,” and learn to highlight something more specific.
It takes a little getting used to, but here’s the method we recommend: first, you applaud a specific behavior you’re seeing. This can be as simple as something like “congratulations on opening the XYZ Corp. account.” Rather than stopping there and walking away, however, the next thing you want to do is stop and let what you said sink in.
After your sales person has had a moment to see that you’re serious, and not just paying lip service, highlight a personal quality that allowed them to succeed. A good example here might be something like “you really did a great job researching that account.” Again, you don’t have to overthink things; just be sure to mention something specific. And finally, point out a benefit that has or will result from their action. Something like “I’m sure this will be great for your bonus and opens new doors for you” should do just fine.
As we mentioned, this takes a little more practice and effort to get used to, but if you can master those four steps, you can learn to give positive feedback that is excepted much more readily and has a much longer impact.
Giving feedback is an important part of the sales leader’s job. Don’t take it for granted that your team always understands you the way you would like – learn to coach them, asked the right questions, and recognize their achievements.
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