Developing World Class Sales Teams
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By Richard White

Feedback is an important tool in the Sales Manager’s coaching toolkit. You want your sales people to increase their sales results and feedback is an excellent way to help them identify how to make improvements. So often, however, offering feedback is like asking someone if they want to be criticised!  How does one deliver feedback in a positive way that is not only embraced but actively sought?

What is your Intension?
The first step on our improving the quality of our feedback is to examine our intension in giving feedback.

  • Do we want to show how much better we are at selling than the sales person?
  • Do we want to make them feel guilty at the mistakes they have made?
  • Or do we want them to improve their sales performance?

Hopefully you chose the last answer!

Your intension will greatly influence how the person perceives the feedback. If your intension is to criticise then they are very likely to feel criticised. Worse, they will probably feel manipulated too!

The sandwich method
The traditional approach to giving feedback is commonly known as ‘The Sandwich Method’. When done properly it can be very effective. Basically it has three stages:

  • Commend – Point out all the things you thought were good about their performance
  • Recommend – give one or two things that you feel they can improve upon and give examples of how they could do it
  • Commend – Summarise the performance in and encouraging and positive terms

The sandwich method is often wrongly seen as the way to soften the blow of criticism by sandwiching it between two positives. The recommend stage should not be used to criticise. Instead you should be recommending what they should try next time.

An enlightened approach to feedback
The best way to give feedback turns out to be asking your sales person to give themselves their own feedback! After using this approach for a while sales people  will begin to give themselves their own feedback when you are not there. They are also more likely to implement their own feedback.

Such feedback is conducted by the following three questions:

  • How do you think that went?
  • What did you do really well?
  • What would you do differently next time?

Offering input

If the sales person has correctly assessed the situation then all you need to do is agree and perhaps give some encouragement. Sometimes they may say that they would not change anything and you might agree with them.

If the sales person is being particularly self critical then I suggest you emphasise some of the things they did well to help put it all into perspective and balance things. Some people are self critical enough and they would welcome you pointing out some of the positives.

The problem comes when they have given themselves glowing feedback and have not noticed errors, perhaps because they do not understand what they did wrong. Rather than just leaving it or launching into old style criticism, give them a way forward by offering some suggestions:

Ask them ‘Are you ok with me sharing some observations?’ (you can do a Macabe nod if you think they need encouragement to say yes!)

Then follow a simple pattern:

  • What did you think they did really well?
  • What did you notice?
  • Ask if there was a particular reason
  • What could they do differently next time?

By sharing that you or others used to make similar mistakes you take the heat out of the feedback and it shows that it is possible to change. You are then able to provide suggestions that provide a positive way forward.

Example

Sales manager: ‘I agree that the meeting went very well and you asked some great questions. Do you mind if I make an observation?’

Sales person: ‘Sure’

Sales manager: ‘ I thought you looked very confident and there seemed to be a great rapport between you and the prospect.  I did notice that you were doing a most of the talking and that the prospect mentioned a problem they were having on several occasions and you let it pass. Was there any particular reason?’

Sales person: ‘No I did not spot that’

Sales manager: ‘ That’s not a problem. I used to miss opportunities because I was talking too much. What I found was that when I limited my talking to asking questions and follow-on questions I began to pick up so many more opportunities that previously had passed me by. What could you do differently next time to pick up on the cues your prospect is offering you?

Sales person: ‘I know I should improve my listening but when I get nervous I end up talking too much! Perhaps I can work on my confidence levels before the meeting’

Sales manager: ‘Sounds like a good plan. Let’s see how it goes at our next meeting’

Be open to feedback
One thing I found was that when I became more open to feedback and actively sought feedback I started to appreciate positive feedback and dramatically improving the quality of my own feedback to others. When you see how badly people are at giving you feedback then you will appreciate how much more effective positive feedback is in generating improvements!

Focused activity is one of the fundamentals of sales success. This is a mini-course video with exercises designed to help you set your goals, get motivated and stay motivated. If you do the course yourself you will better understand how to work with your sales team to get them motivated. Feel free to let them do the mini-course too.

Click here to play the video

By Richard White

There is a coaching model that is very effective for coaching others but can actually be used to coach yourself if you are stuck with a problem and looking for a way forward. It’s called the GROW model and within the corporate environment it is often used to teach managers the basics of coaching.

The GROW model was developed in the UK by Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore. I was actually trained by Sir John Whitmore in the GROW model back in 1993. He demonstrated by coaching someone to improve their golf swing even though he was not a golf player himself.

It’s actually a problem solving process that helps people think through their problems and come up with their own solutions. This article is about how to use the GROW process to help us think through our own problems.

If you have been trained then why not use it on yourself? It will make you a more effective sales coach if you do.

Each letter of GROW represents a stage in the process.

GOAL
What is your outcome? What do you want to achieve?

Use the SMART criteria to ensure your goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound.

You need to get to a position where you are very clear of what you want. Write it down and read it back to yourself. Tweak it until it is clear enough that if you were to tell someone else in one sentence they would understand your goal.

If your goal is qualitative – for example, “I want to feel more confident about public speaking” then consider a scale of 0 to 10 – Where do you want to be on a scale of 0 to 10 and how would you know? What evidence will you have that you have achieved it? What would you be doing differently?

If you were on a journey, this would be your destination. The one you program into your Sat Nav system.

REALITY
What is your current position in relation to your goal?

Articulate it with the same clarity as your goal. If your goal is qualitative with a scale of 1 to 10 then where are you now along that scale.

Example
Goal: By the end on September 2010 I want to be feeling 8 out of 10 in terms of confidence with public speaking so that I am able to stand up and give a presentation in front of the board of directors.

Reality: I am currently feeling 5 out of 10 in terms of confidence with public speaking and racked with nerves even thinking about it!

In terms of a journey, the reality is your current position in relation to your journey. Where are you going? And How far have you got left to travel?

OPTIONS
This is about finding your best course of action in achieving your goal and involves considering your options.

Simply ask yourself ‘What are my options?’

You are looking to list as many options as you can, no matter how silly they seem. Do not evaluate them at this stage. Just get them down on paper. I always start with ‘Do nothing’ to get me going.

Keep the ideas coming by asking yourself questions like ‘What else?’

For example, when considering improving your confidence in cold calling your options might include:

  • Join a local public speaking club
  • Go to the library and read books on public speaking
  • Speak to people who have overcome their nerves and get tips from them
  • Get some hypnotherapy
  • Get a public speaking coach
  • Attend a training course
  • Etc etc

In terms of a journey its equivalent to considering all the different ways of getting there on time.

WILL
The final part of the grow model drives out the actions. It’s decision time!

Out of all the options listed, which of them are you going to do?

In order to decide on your actions you need to first evaluate the options and begin to eliminate them. In some cases you may end up with more than one action from your list.

In terms of a journey this is about deciding on your specific travel plans to get to your destination. It is your road map.

You may want to build in some milestones or check points along the way to ensure you are on the right path.

If you are looking to improve your sales coaching skills then why not give it a go – you could see your sales begin to GROW very quickly!