March 24

Sales Feedback – The Unopened Gift in Sales Organizations

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Everyone says they want and appreciate the feedback. That is---until they actually receive it! Communication and leadership experts emphasize the importance of candor and truth-telling conversations. And yet, most people dread such conversations.

Sales leaders and salespeople are human beings. And like most human beings, they tend to avoid difficult conversations. Both parties dance around the issues that need to be addressed. With the fear of the great resignation, sales managers quickly retreat when hearing pushback for fear that the salesperson will jump ship.

As a result, most sales leaders don’t give the gift of feedback. Their sales teams don’t learn the valuable lessons learned around how to do better and be better in life and sales.

According to a Korn Ferry survey, “33% of employees jump ship because they feel bored in the workplace and want to find new challenges. They seek new opportunities for professional development, which motivates them to keep learning and become better at what they do.”

That is exactly what feedback does!

How can sales organizations improve in delivering the important gift of feedback? Schedule meetings.

#1. Sales managers. Schedule a meeting with yourself. The goal of this meeting is to listen to the chatter in your head. You might be surprised to find that much of the chatter is a bunch of fiction, not fact.

“The great resignation is going on. If I give this salesperson honest feedback, she will leave.”

“I don’t want to upset my sales culture. What if this person leaves the coaching session and starts complaining about me?”

Stop the chatter and apply the EQ skill of reality testing.

What if you don’t give feedback and the salesperson stays? Are you willing to live with the very behavior you need to address?

Does this salesperson add to the quality of conversation with team members or decrease the quality of conversation through gossip and complaints?

How will your sales culture be affected if other members of your sales team observe a team member that is not honoring the company values or your team values?

The reality is that successful people accept and embrace feedback.

In fact, in a recent Zippia.com study they found:

  • 65% of employees desire more feedback.
  • Companies that invest in regular employee feedback have 14.9% lower turnover rates than organizations where employees do not receive feedback.
  • Four out of ten employees who receive little to no feedback are actively disengaged from their work.
  • 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were being recognized through feedback.
  • 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week.

Sure, all of us might initially push back upon hearing insights around our blind spots. However, my experience shows that people with a desire to do better and be better come back at a later time and say, “Thanks. I’ve thought about what you’ve said and I am going to make the recommended changes.”

#2: Salespeople – Hold a meeting with yourself and listen to the chatter in your head. When you receive feedback, are you taking the feedback on your role performance or are you taking the feedback personally, on your self-worth? Do you take feedback as a judgment on your character or observation of your selling skills?

Apply the EQ skill of reality testing. A sales manager that gives well-intended feedback is demonstrating that they care about you and your success. When people don’t care, they don’t share. It’s too much work.

A person that cares about you will challenge you to bring your best self to work and life every day.

One of my more memorable feedback moments occurred in my 20’s. I was a merchandiser for a chain of retail stores in the Midwest. We had a new store opening in Kansas City, which meant there was merchandise purchased specifically for this grand opening.

One of the more popular items came from a popular blue jean vendor, who will go unnamed. Their team was running me around in circles. They repeatedly promised the merchandise had been shipped, when it was still sitting in their warehouse.

But I was a bulldog, with a bone, and I called that vendor every day. When the merchandise predictably shipped late, I physically walked it through our warehouse. I watched and made sure the blue jeans were loaded on the delivery truck to ensure the merchandise would arrive in time for the grand opening.

The merchandise didn’t make it to the grand opening (I can’t quite remember exactly why).

I told my boss, Stan, EVERYTHING I had done to get the merchandise into the store. I’ll never forget his short response: “Sounds like you didn’t get the job done.”

Gulp.

Stan’s comment wasn’t what I would call emotionally intelligent or empathetic.

His comment definitely flunked Management 101 because there was zero credit given for my efforts.

Many of you reading this story will think, “That’s not feedback, that’s abuse.” 

Maybe.

However, years later I recognize there was a gift in Stan’s curt, not so emotionally intelligent feedback. That gift:

You will be judged by your results, not your good intentions.

I’m not sure if there was anything else I could have done 30 years ago to get that merchandise to the store.  However, what I do know is that anytime I’ve been tempted to take a short cut or not give 100 percent effort, I hear Stan’s words. It reminds me that even if I fail, I can live with the failure because I did give it my very best effort with the knowledge and skills I had at the time.

Feedback is a gift. Sales managers, please give it. Salespeople, please receive it.

Good Selling!


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