One of the most important parts of being a sales coach or manager is the ability to provide effective feedback to your sales agents.
This helps them to continue improving, break through slumps, and continue adding value to your sales team as a whole.
But sales feedback can be a delicate issue – if you’re too soft, your agents may not listen or respect your advice; but if you’re too harsh, they may get defensive and tune you out.
So, how do you walk the fine line and provide constructive and effective feedback? Here are a few tips that will help you.
Avoid the “Feedback Sandwich”
You’ve probably heard of this one before. You start and end with a compliment, and stuff the “meat” of the constructive feedback in between. Makes sense, right?
But you should stop serving the feedback sandwich.
The stats have proven that it’s ineffective, or rather, counterproductive.
This is for a few reasons:
- It benefits the person giving the feedback more than the person receiving the feedback (by allowing the giver to save face)
- It causes your agents to expect reproach when you actually do give them compliments (since they’ll usually be layered with criticism)
- It may cause agents to drown out the negative comments, making the feedback meaningless
So avoid the temptation to sugar coat, and tell it like it is.
Tie Feedback to Goals & Expectations
There are a lot of good reasons to set expectations with your sales team. And to establish goals that they should be reaching for.
One of these reasons is because it clearly identifies when extra effort, training, or a change in strategy is needed.
When feedback is tied to expectations agents are less likely to be surprised and upset by it, and more likely to be open to it, and to quickly embrace a solution.
For example, it’s a lot more effective to say, “We need our real-time leads to be called within 5 minutes of the lead coming in, and you’re not quite hitting that metric” than saying “You’re not working your leads efficiently enough.”
There’s no room for vagueness when it comes to feedback. When you’re vague, your sales agent knows that something isn’t right, but they don’t know what to do about it, or how to move forward. And that just hurts morale.
Be direct as to what problems exist, and how best to work through them.
The last thing you want to do is let a problem linger, fester, and get worse. That’s how bad habits take hold. It’s how resentment arises.
The quicker you provide the feedback, the better.
What’s more, when you provide consistent feedback, you teach your sales agents to continually problem solve, rather than getting comfortable with what might be less than optimal performance.
So, point out issues to your sales agents as soon as you see them arise.
Lay Out an Action Plan
When you add an action plan to your feedback, you give it a purpose. Your agent will know the steps they need to take to start making it happen.
To create this action plan, aim to include them in the process. After you offer the feedback, you can ask, “What steps do you feel you can take to start improving on this?” (Again, teach them to be problem solvers). Then, you can work with the agent to construct an action plan you both agree with and understand.
Don’t Forget the Positive
Feedback is typically thought of as negative. It’s doled out when there are issues. But it doesn’t always have to be that way.
In fact, feedback should be balanced.
As a sales manager, you don’t just want to be visible when problems are present. You want be to be there when goals are reached, problems are solved, and sales are made. Tell your agents when they’re putting forth great effort, and doing great work.
Positive feedback is a great source of motivation, and it’s effectiveness can last long after it has been delivered.
As a sales manager you should be cognizant of the way feedback is given to your team. Sales feedback is best received (and acted upon) when it’s direct, specific, timely, solution-oriented, and balanced.
What other tips do you have for providing effective feedback to your sales agents? Have any strategies backfired? Let us know in the comments below!