Master this fundamental skill of leadership
As a sales leader, there is one fundamental skill you have to master to get the most out of your sales reps. You have to know how to give quality feedback. All professionals crave feedback. Sales professionals are no different. They want constructive feedback that will help them grow. The problem is we’re always focused giving feedback centered around the numbers, right? Are you hitting your revenue projections? Are you hitting quota? That feedback goes without needing to be said. Any sales professional that’s worth their salt knows their numbers and their feedback go hand in hand. If you aren’t hitting your numbers, you already know you aren’t performing in that aspect of your job. But that’s not the type of feedback that gets the most out of your sales employees. So what do we do about it? When you want to give feedback to the people who are generating revenue for your organization, there’s four points you need to remember.
Motivate your team
The feedback you give your sales professionals, your sales team should inspire action, not de-motivate. When we give feedback that’s solely based around quantitative metrics, a quota for example, and you tell someone they’re not performing— which they probably already know— that doesn’t inspire action in that person, it doesn’t motivate them. When you give feedback that inspires employees to take action, they’re naturally going to perform at a higher level. So give feedback that’s going to inspire, not feedback that’s going to discourage.
Feedback with purpose
The second thing that you can do to give quality feedback is to make sure you have a purpose in giving this feedback. Ask yourself ‘what is my objective in giving this feedback?’ Be honest with yourself. Is your objective to give this feedback to check an HR box, in the event you need to let them go down the road? “hey, I gave this person feedback.” Done and done. That’s not constructive feedback, and it’s a waste of time. Give feedback with a purpose. To inspire your employees to reach their full potential is as good a reason as any.
Embrace the difficult conversations
The third thing you can do when you’re delivering feedback is embrace the difficult conversations. The harsh reality of giving feedback to a sales professional is that it is a number-based process, right? You hit quota, you’re performing. You don’t hit quota, you’re not performing. Don’t shy away from those difficult conversations. The difficult conversations aren’t just centered around quotas. The difficult conversations are diving deep, going into this person’s sales process, going into this person’s influences— what’s at the root of this failure to meet expectations. You have to embrace these difficult conversations. And as a sales leader, if you’re nervous or uncomfortable delivering these difficult conversations, the person you’re giving feedback to is also going to be uncomfortable with these difficult conversations. The last thing you want is the difficult conversation to turn into a shouting match or an argumentative conversation. Keep it positive, be empathetic and constructive, and these difficult conversations can be productive ones.
The good and the bad
The fourth thing you can do to ensure that you’re giving quality feedback is remember this: good feedback is just as important as bad feedback. If every time you give an employee feedback, it’s only bad feedback, eventually that person is never going to want to hear from you. It’s one of the oldest principles in one of my favorite books– How to Win Friends and Influence People. If you give somebody a reputation to live up to, eventually they’ll live up to that reputation. If you’re only giving bad feedback, eventually that person’s going to feel like they are a bad employee and they will perform like a bad employee. I’m not saying to do the traditional feedback sandwich— good feedback, bad feedback, good feedback. I think it’s an antiquated philosophy, and we’ll dive deeper that in another blog post. Just make sure you’re emphasizing what they’re doing well, not just what need improvement.
Now, just because you’re going to go implement these four areas to improve the quality of feedback, doesn’t mean they’re going to perform and grow at the pace you want them to. The problem when we deliver feedback— and this is for you, the sales manager, the sales leader, the entrepreneur, the owner of the business— is that feedback has to be a consistent program in the way you manage or lead people. Sporadic feedback, HR-motivated feedback, and annual reviews are not going to spark real change. The solution here is simple. Give feedback consistently, constructively, and openly. The more feedback you share, the more your employees are going to grow.