How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Sales Staff

Recently, I discussed why coaching drives sales performance and helps originators learn new skills and why standards must be in place so the individual being coached understands the expected performance requirements. Today, I would like to share the most important key to successful coaching: effective feedback.

Feedback is about the manager giving direction so the originator can make a change in his or her selling techniques. By definition, feedback recognizes what the individual is doing that is up to par; details what is below performance; and provides the steps to modify or improve the employee’s selling skills.

Effective feedback engages the sales person in a dialogue to start the change process. If a dialogue does not occur or the communication is one-sided, it is impossible for a behavior to be modified or changed.

Why is it so critical for feedback to be delivered correctly? If executed poorly, feedback can be damaging, counter-productive and actually prevent the employee from making necessary changes.

The most common mistakes managers make in giving feedback are aptly described in Jim Domanski’s book “Telesales Coaching”:

&#8226 Tell Style: “You didn’t close.”
&#8226 Chide Style: “Are you kidding me. A seven-year old could have closed that.”
&#8226 But Style: “The opening was good but the questioning needs some work.”
&#8226 Rhetorical Style: ”You want to be a winner, don’t you?”
&#8226 When I Sold Style: “I remember a similar situation, and here’s what I did…”

There are others, but I think that you get the picture.

The best coaches focus on one or two areas that the individual must master and then move on to the next issue. In other words, a good coach provides developmental feedback.

What is developmental feedback? Developmental feedback provides the originator with specifics on how to improve. It is positive and encourages the sales person to feel good about making the effort.

How does a manager deliver developmental feedback? Managers should pose questions to their sales people rather than providing the instruction. I know this sounds counter-intuitive but it has the best chance of changing selling behavior. The most famous teacher of developmental feedback was Socrates, the Greek philosopher who believed that students were more likely to take ownership for the information if they derived the answers themselves. This is a powerful concept and addresses how to ensure that the student takes ownership of modifying their selling activities. Why does it work well? By having individuals conduct their own personal analysis of a sales call, they are not only analyzing their own behavior but they are verbalizing whether they will modify their selling skills or not. Personal ownership is the start of implementing lasting change. Manager should ask questions that point the sales person in the right direction such as, “Tell me, how do you think that the sales call is going?” I will discuss more about excellent developmental feedback next week.

Have you trained your managers to properly coach their originators? If you want to improve your managers’ coaching techniques, give me a call to discuss.