One of the most important things a sales manager can do to help their reps perform better is to coach them to improve their selling skills. Sales training is a critical first step in building reps’ selling skills, but without consistent manager coaching and feedback to support that training, the development of those new skills will stagnate. To deliver the most effective feedback, try these tips:
Be deliberate and consistent – If a manager only gives feedback when somebody has made a mistake, they are creating a negative connotation of feedback, which is turn can make the rep feel defensive as soon as the feedback begins. If the sales manager wants their feedback to be well-received, they should review sales calls with reps all of the time, regardless of whether the sales call had a positive or negative outcome. The consistency will make the rep more comfortable in receiving feedback in general, which in turn, will help them receive critical feedback with a more open mind.
Begin every feedback session with questions – When sales managers are teaching reps how to sell, they usually stress the importance of asking questions of prospective customers. The reason for this is to ensure the products or services the rep is recommending are consistent with the prospects’ needs, as well as to gain the prospects’ buy-in for the reps’ recommendations. Questions can serve a similar role in a manager giving feedback. By first seeking to understand why the rep took the action they did, it’s easier for the manager to know what to coach, as well as gain the reps’ buy-in for what they need to do differently.
Be specific rather than general – One of the most frequent complaints we hear from reps on our surveys is that their sales managers’ feedback is too general. Just imagine a golf pro telling their student to hit the ball harder rather than coaching them on how to modify their swing. For many reps, that’s the kind of feedback they receive. In order to make feedback most meaningful, a sales manager should use examples of what was done well or what wasn’t. When coaching for improvement, it’s important to offer specific ideas on how the reps’ questions, responses, arguments or behaviors should be modified to achieve a better outcome.
Focus on the behavior, not the person – A final key aspect of delivering effective feedback is to help the rep realize they have the ability to change their approach. This is why it’s critical to focus on the behavior they’re exhibiting rather than framing the issue as an aspect of their personality. If a rep is told that they’re disorganized or a bad listener or whatever the criticism may be, the rep is more likely to feel like it’s an aspect of who they are that they can’t change. However, if the manager discusses the behavior they’ve observed in situations, they can help the rep see that how they could modify that behavior the next time.
These tips are not the only aspects of feedback that are critical, but they provide a good place to start. Just remember that how feedback is delivered is as important as the feedback itself. When a sales manager uses these tips to help a rep feel more comfortable in receiving feedback, the rep can better implement the valuable ideas that the manager has to help the rep improve. Overall, if you deliver feedback the right way, then the rep may actually take action on your ideas.
You can always learn more ways to deliver feedback and coach your sales team more effectively by attending our EcSELL Institute Summit. For more information, click here: http://www.ecsellinstitute.com/summit-spring-2014