Editor's Note: This blog has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on June 22, 2020.
One of the most important things a manager can do to help their team members perform better is to coach them to improve their selling skills. Sales training is a critical first step in building a team member's selling skills, but without consistent coaching and feedback from a manager to support that training, the development of those new skills will stagnate.
To deliver the most effective feedback, try these 4 tips...
1. 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 in turn can make the team member feel defensive as soon as the feedback begins. If managers want their feedback to be well-received, they should review sales calls or meetings with team members all of the time, regardless of whether the sales call or meeting had a positive or negative outcome.
The consistency will make the team member more comfortable in receiving feedback in general, which in turn, will help them receive critical feedback with a more open mind.
2. Begin every feedback session with questions.
When managers are teaching their team members how to sell or promote their products or services, they usually stress the importance of asking questions of prospective customers. The reason for this is to ensure the products or services the team member is recommending are consistent with the prospects’ needs, as well as to gain the prospects’ buy-in for the team member’s recommendations.
Questions can serve a similar role in a manager giving feedback. By first seeking to understand why the team member took the action they did, it’s easier for the manager to know what to coach, as well as gain the team member’s buy-in for what he or she needs to do differently.
3. Be specific rather than general.
One of the most frequent complaints we hear from team members on our surveys is that their 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 team members, that’s the kind of feedback they receive. In order to make feedback most meaningful, a 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 team member’s questions, responses, arguments or behaviors should be modified to achieve a better outcome.
4. Focus on the behavior, not the person.
A final key aspect of delivering effective feedback is to help the team members realize they have the ability to change the 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 the team member is told that he or she is disorganized or a bad listener or whatever the criticism may be, the team member 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 he or she has observed in situations, then the manager can help the team member see how one could modify that behavior the next time.
When a manager uses these tips to help team members feel more comfortable in receiving feedback, then they can better implement the valuable ideas that the manager has to help with their growth and development. Overall, if managers deliver feedback the right way, then the team members may actually take action on your ideas.
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. You can dig deeper into the research behind why giving effective feedback is important and how it affects sales results in this whitepaper: