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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Much Of The Feedback Sales Managers Give Is Useless


Sales Managers have a hard job. Above them, executives are very clear about what they expect them to achieve—usually expressed as a dollar goal for the department. But, the Sales Manager is the person who has to convert what the company expects into how to accomplish it. Not easy. If the company expects the Sales Manager to reach a million dollars in sales this month simply sending that message down the line to the sales team is of little or no value. We all know certain things roll downhill with little result. 

So what kind of feedback does the Sales Manager provide to translate the what (the monetary goal), to the how (the method by which we will accomplish the goal)? Here are some ideas:

1. Provide all salespeople with feedback about their skills, not just their goals.

What did the manager see on the last few coaching calls? Did the salesperson open the call well by restating the Valid Business Reason for the meeting? Did the salesperson repeat the contract agreed to when they set the call about the purpose and agenda? Did the salesperson ask insightful questions, listen, and the ask the right follow up questions? If so, notice that, and provide that feedback after the call.  B.F. Skinner says behavior that gets recognized gets repeated. If the salesperson did not do as well in these (and other areas) ask about it, and then agree on some ways calls could go better next time. In order to grow salespeople (and all people) need feedback on their skills, not just goals.

Can you imagine a coach during the infamous half time speech saying, "OK, it’s 28 to 14. They have 28 and we have 14. In order to tie, we have to score at least 14 more points and not let them score. If we want to win we have to score more than 14 points. Got it?" 

Ridiculous? Many managers provide only feedback on the score. Feedback on goals is like a thermometer measure. It tells you the room temperature: 72 degrees. Feedback on skills is more like a thermostat measure. When you set a thermostat, it changes the room temperature. Use more thermostat measures. 

2. Resist the temptation to give too much negative feedback.

“What’s wrong” is our default setting, and sometimes there is evidence of what’s wrong everywhere—so you need discipline, or a method to provide more positive feedback than negative feedback. We suggest 5:1, five positive comments for every one corrective comment. Sound easy? I didn’t think so. But which type of feedback is more effective—positive or negative? You’ve been there and you know the answer. I heard of one Sales Manager who took five coins and put them in her left pocket and each time she provided positive feedback to her seller she transferred one coin from left pocket to right pocket. The goal at the end of the day was to have no coins remaining in that left pocket. By the way, the salesperson on whose behalf she was practicing this increased his production by 43% and began over delivering his budget consistently. It works.

3. As you have already suspected, in order to give feedback on how your salespeople performed during a sales call, you have to find time to be in the field with them. 

Yes, I know that you are busy and have meetings every day that prevent getting out into the field, but as long as you employ humans to do the job, this is a principle you cannot break. Sorry.

Sales Managers, set your thermostats. You can translate the what into the how with feedback on skills not just goals, and a 5:1 ratio of positive vs. corrective. Just do it.

10 Steps to Powerful Feedback 

Topics: Sales