Working in sales is a high-pressure job. There is so much riding on meeting quotas and earning sufficient commission for yourself, and keeping your company at the level of success that it needs to sustain operations.
A sign of a good sales manager is a team that works together efficiently toward one common goal without having to resort to empty promises or dishonesty. A good sales manager also knows how to give constructive feedback when a sales rep is coming up short. Constantly conveying ways to improve while being encouraging along the way will result in a successful sales team and exponential growth for your company.
Take heed of the following strategies and techniques for offering effective sales feedback to your sales team:
Keep it positive
As noted above, sales is probably the most difficult and stressful role of any company. Many sales reps experience an average of 10 “no’s” for every “yes” they receive. Overall, the job can be very discouraging and take a toll on the rep’s disposition. Be mindful of this when offering feedback to your sales team. You don’t want to add to their defeat. Is it scary when you don’t meet a sales goal? Of course it is. But berating your team is not the way to handle it. Your sales reps can’t control how people react to a sales call, therefore, it’s not their fault if they get rejected continually.
One positive approach involves asking the sales rep to identify two things they think they did well and two things on which they could improve. Emphasize the positive and encourage your sales rep to continue to do what works. This way, should your team members need to approach you again for feedback, they know they’ll receive constructive criticism that will help them be productive and not feel disheartened all the time. As a leader, having your team approach you for direction on a semi-regular basis is a good sign that they trust you and want to heed your advice.
On the other hand, if something they’re doing isn’t working, this is your chance to offer positive reinforcement with coaching directives on how to improve. Offer more modern ways to approach a sales pitch. For instance, cold calling is becoming more antiquated by the day. Offer them different methods they could use such as social selling, email or come up with some effective lead generation tools specific to your industry.
Give specific pointers
Don’t be vague when offering feedback. Avoid saying something along the lines of, “Your stats are unacceptable. You need to buckle down, work harder and boost your productivity this quarter. Work longer hours if you have to.” First of all, intruding on someone’s work-life balance doesn’t get anyone anywhere. All it does is build resentment and pressure where it doesn’t belong. At that point, you may be stuck with one fewer sales rep.
Instead, distinguish which methods in the rep’s selling process that aren’t working. Have them express the areas they’re struggling with the most and offer specific ways to overcome and improve those obstacles. Sales training is not finite. There are always new strategies and methods you could employ that will become useful resources when all other avenues have been exhausted.
Be reasonable with your expectations
As a sales manager or company owner, be realistic when setting quarterly or annual goals for the business. You don’t want to set your team up for failure.
Along with a constructive feedback process, set attainable goals that will help motivate your team members. They want to feel they’re capable of achieving what's expected of them rather than working toward an unreachable standard. That’s not to say you need to devalue your company or diminish what you think your sales team can achieve, just have a more realistic starting point and if they achieve that goal, by all means up the ante.
Also, be objective when evaluating each rep’s performance. If you have set goals for the sales department as a whole, hold everyone responsible for the same metrics. Be familiar with their individual working styles and associate your team’s expectations from there.
Delivering good feedback for sales reps involves staying in tune with your sales team’s needs. Offering advice should be a streamlined process featuring constructive criticism balanced with words of encouragement. You want to keep the momentum of the company moving forward. If something isn’t working, don’t let it fester, tackle the issue right away and see where your sales reps are getting stuck. Being in constant communication with your team is healthy as long as you don’t cross the line into micromanaging. It should be a two-way street. Check in with your reps every now and then, but also let them know they can always approach you for help when they encounter a roadblock. And if big goals or milestones are met, reward your team as fairly as possible in an effort to sustain good morale and a strong sales front. The sales team is normally the bread and butter of the company, make sure you acknowledge them in that capacity and they will continue to deliver.