The majority of sales leaders and sales professionals understand the value of sales coaching. Despite that widespread awareness, we often bear witness to the same challenges sales managers deal with when it comes to conveying feedback to their staff. In particular, how to evaluate performance and effectively give feedback so that their reps embrace the idea of coaching—and even look forward to it because they know they can grow and learn from it. Here are some ideas how to improve feedback during sales coaching sessions:
- Remove Anxiety
Sales professionals can perceive coaching as a negative experience. Part of that negativity has to do with anxiety about being coached. Sales managers can start by soothing sales reps’ worry and hesitation by creating a positive environment. It’s important to communicate to the rep that you’re providing them with feedback not as punishment, but as a tool to help pave their way forward in the organization.
Communicate to your reps that you’re invested in continuing their professional growth and development. Make it clear that you’re not out to change everything about their job performance; rather that you’re focused on helping them make incremental changes and adjustments that will help them improve. The safer the rep feels being coached, the more engaged and productive they’ll be.
- Offer Targeted Feedback
Coaching is most effective when you’re direct and targeted in your feedback. By giving specific feedback, you’re facilitating the rep’s understanding of what she need to focus on and how to implement solutions into her workflows. There’s a tendency with sales managers to dabble in vagaries when coaching. All that does is confuse the rep about how to engage in the coaching process and take some ownership of it. When coaching, use proof points to underscore the information you’re conveying. Offering real-life examples helps the rep digest what you’re serving up to him, because the desired change is more tangible. Also, don’t overwhelm the rep with lots of feedback—even if he need lots of feedback. Limit the number of feedback items to just a few each session.
- Give and Take and Give
Think of coaching as a running dialogue between sales manager and sales rep. Make sure you’re enabling a conversation and getting feedback during coaching sessions. In other words, factor in some give and take: Feedback that goes in one direction with no input from the rep can be counterproductive. Take the time to stop and confirm that the feedback you’re giving is something they’re really comprehending. Ask them how they think they could have handled a particular situation better. The more engaged in their development you are, the more invested the rep is in growing their skill sets.
- Stay Positive Throughout
Finally, reps should never perceive or confuse feedback as criticism—criticism either of them as individuals or of their job performance. You may need to make a cultural shift in the way you coach, or simply tweak and make adjustments to your coaching style. Either way, focus on removing any negative perception of coaching and making sure that you’re delivering constructive feedback in a welcoming and safe environment. Do it right and you’re letting the rep know that in giving feedback, what you’re really giving is feedforward.