Heather Foley explains how to give your sales team effective feedback without dampening their spirits – and ability to sell.
1. Frame the conversation as productive and constructive
This is probably the most important step. By framing the conversation well, you transform it from being a potentially risky and emotional activity to a productive and constructive one.
When framing, it’s necessary to share your intention for the conversation and to gain the other person’s permission to continue.
Consider openers such as, “I know how great you are at sales and how seriously you take your career. I was wondering whether it would be ok to share some thoughts I’ve had recently about how you could improve?”
With this sort of framing, your sales person is inevitably going to remain relaxed and welcome some ideas on how to improve.
2. You need to be specific for it to be helpful
The next step is to share the actual feedback. You need to be specific for it to be helpful. This runs the risk, however, of coming across as accusatory.
A useful way to avoid making it sound negative is to use the word ‘perception’. For example, “my perception is that for the last few days you’ve been arriving at work later and you seem distracted or disengaged. I wonder if you could let me know your thoughts”.
Because your sales person doesn’t feel accused of anything, s/he will be inclined to let you know what’s been happening. Most of the time in these situations, it’s something that can be easily solved. Whatever the reason, you’ve created an environment where people can tell the truth and issues can be dealt with.
3. Help your sales people to tease out their own solutions
At this point, solutions to the issue need to be found. You should resist the urge to start talking and offering your ideas. As a great manager, you need to help your sales people to tease out their own solutions.
If you feel they have little chance of success, encourage them to continue exploring other options until you feel comfortable with the solution they suggest.
4. Agree the next steps
The temptation is to stop there. However, there is one final critical step – you need to agree what the next concrete action will be and when it will be completed.
Giving or receiving criticism is never easy, but it can be managed. By following a few simple steps, you’ll stop demotivating your sales team whenever difficult feedback needs to be given.
Heather Foley is a consultant at etsplc.com, HR consultancy and software provider