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Article: Delivering feedback your sales team will want to hear

Posted by: In: Communication, Sales Coaching 18 Sep 2010 Comments: 0

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.


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!

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