Sales reps

Knowing where a sales rep is coming up short is one thing. Effectively conveying how the rep needs to improve is another, and can often be a challenge for sales managers.

The following are several strategies and techniques to consider as you prepare to offer effective feedback.

Balance the Good with the Bad

If the only feedback you share in meetings with your reps is negative, you train your team members to view such encounters with a pessimistic outlook. Instead, make it a point to balance positive reinforcement with coaching directives.

One approach we use is to start first by asking the recipient two things he/she did well and two things he/she could improve upon. Feedback should be a positive experience. When it is, your team members will seek out constructive criticism. If you as a leader aren’t being asked to give feedback, you likely need to improve the way you give it.

Make the Feedback Specific

You want to make sure your feedback is specific. Instead of saying, “I really need you to buckle down, work harder and boost your productivity this quarter,” identify particular stages or steps in the rep’s selling process that require growth. As our own Brian Walsh says, “Provide the How.” Don’t just tell the rep to sell larger deals. Enable the rep with the ability to demonstrate the value of a larger solution with discovery guides and a value framework.

Be Consistent and Realistic

Having a consistent management operating rhythm and coaching review process helps drive a constructive feedback process. You can also stick to objective criteria to evaluate each rep on the same metrics for each selling stage. When communicating expectations, sales reps need to feel that all objectives are realistic and within their capability, or motivation will suffer. Expectations should tie in well with an individual’s typical work style.

Stay Concise and Forward-Looking

The goal of feedback is to guide better action steps moving forward. Keep the message forward-looking, address the gap between current performance and the target. Timeliness plays a key role in helping to motivate and keep sales professionals on track. Just like the expectation itself, deadlines need to be feasible and clearly stated. If there will be milestones to reach or progress checks along the way, these should also be spelled out.