When providing salespeople with feedback during sales coaching, it’s easy to fall into feedback pitfalls. If you are like most sales managers, you’re probably giving feedback to your team members the same way it was given to you. Yet recent research suggests that your feedback can have more influence over your team’s improvement.
Review these three feedback pitfalls to see if you’ve fallen into any of them. If you do, make note to avoid them going forward. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the impact of this effort on your team’s engagement, sales, and overall performance, and you’ll all enjoy the feedback process more than you did before.
Feedback Pitfall 1: Comparing each salesperson’s results to the team’s
It’s a natural part of the learning process to want to see measurable improvement, and if you are like most sales managers, you have a variety of measurable data at your fingertips: your salespeople’s week-to-week sales, their lead-to-client ratio, or their quote-to-sale ratio. Whatever you choose, beware of how you use them during your sales coaching. As much as you may be tempted to use the numbers to provide your salespeople with a sense of how they stack up against the rest of the team, resist it. People perform best when stats are used to compare their past individual performance to their current individual performance.
With this in mind, during your one-on-one coaching sessions with your team members, use the numbers you have to help your salespeople monitor the changes in their individual performance. Then base your feedback on the context of their individual improvements or slump. This will help them perform better.
Feedback Pitfall 2: Providing positive feedback
Who doesn’t love to receive accolades? Yet positive feedback isn’t what we want to hear all the time. Positive feedback is helpful in sales coaching…and it can be a pitfall in sales coaching. When salespeople try new sales approaches, they usually appreciate and desire positive feedback. But once team members develop a level of skill or mastery in a particular area, believe it or not, they want to hear the negative. They want to know what didn’t work, and they want to figure out how to do it better next time.
Knowing when to provide positive feedback or constructive criticism is essential when it comes to coaching your salespeople to improve their sales behaviors and ultimately their results. Make note of where your team members are in their learning, and match your feedback accordingly.
Feedback Pitfall 3: Telling your salespeople how to improve
It’s not unusual for sales managers to tell their salespeople what to do to sell more. Sometimes this will yield a change in a salesperson’s behavior, but unfortunately, telling salespeople what to do doesn’t always result in change.
One thing that consistently inspires salespeople to improve their sales behavior is when they become instigators of what to do differently. To help facilitate your salespeople’s development of this kind of initiative, ask them questions (instead of tell them what to do) as part of your feedback. This way, they become their own catalyst for change, and you become their advocate rather than the source of all answers.
By asking your team questions instead of only supplying the answers, you increase the likelihood that your team members will act on their own ideas. You’ll also remove the potential for any power struggle that might erupt if you try to get your team to do things your way. After all, what worked for you in a sales situation might not necessarily work for them because of personality differences, prospect idiosyncrasies, industry variables, technology changes, etc.
If you can’t hold back and you do tell a salesperson what to do, you can save the situation and increase the salesperson’s engagement by asking such questions as, “How might that work under those circumstances?” or “Would that have worked in that specific sales conversation?” This way, your team members can filter your idea through their sales experience and determine whether the idea would be effective or not.
As you know, one the reasons behind providing feedback is to help your salespeople develop better sales judgment so that next time they are in a similar sales situation, they will choose the more effective response. By asking your team members questions during feedback, you help improve their judgment and increase their engagement in the execution of their ideas.