Sharing feedback about your sales team’s performance is critical to success. But offering input in the right way — a constructive way — can be challenging.
For sales reps, in particular, constructive criticism helps develop skills, drive performance, and spark growth. However, just one poorly constructed conversation could send employees running to a new company or career.
Delivering constructive criticism might just mean the difference between establishing yourself as a great leader or as a demotivating manager. Your sales team will be more likely to trust you and grow under your leadership if you do the following:
Make feedback a regular part of the job
Sporadic criticism is more likely to throw your sales reps for a loop. Make standardized, documented feedback a regular part of their job. This can be monthly or even quarterly. Getting on track for scheduled feedback will normalize constructive criticism and set your employees up for success. Documentation of these conversations and goals for improvement will also allow you and your sales reps to track progress and achieve more.
Use timing to your advantage
With regular reviews in place for your sales team, constructive criticism should be an expected part of the conversation. This creates an environment in which sales reps are more likely to be receptive to your input because they are prepared for it.
However, there may be moments when a situation or incident needs to be addressed before their next review meeting. In these instances, it’s still important to consider the timing of everything. Rather than providing immediate feedback and catching the sales reps off guard, find the time where you can sit down together and collaboratively work to address the specific problem and make a change.
Don’t make it personal
For criticism to be constructive, the person receiving it shouldn’t feel attacked. Whenever possible, focus on the situation or area of improvement rather than the individual. This ensures that the specific situation is addressed.
Constructive criticism: We’re swamped right now. What steps are you taking to manage your workload? Let’s find a way to build more structure into your days.
Criticism: You’ve seemed a bit overwhelmed and disorganized lately.
Use the feedback sandwich method
There’s an art to providing constructive criticism that remains positive and motivational. The feedback sandwich method consists of starting out with a positive comment or praise, then providing the feedback or criticism, and rounding it out by refocusing on the positive.
The constructive criticism will be “sandwiched” between two positive, which makes it more palatable.
Constructive criticism: One of your best qualities as a part of this team is the energy you bring to each sale. However, I was hoping you could focus on polishing your approach to sharing information about our products. I know this will continue to drive your growth as a valued part of the company and push you to hit new sales records.
Criticism: Sometimes, you seem unpolished when it comes to knowledge of our products.
Create positive goals and areas for improvement
Set your sales reps up for continued growth and reflection during each of these conversations. Rather than merely telling them what they did wrong and how they should fix it, brainstorm goals for development and improvement.
Work with your employer to create SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. This will keep things affirmative and future-focused.
Constructive criticism: Your presentations have been phenomenal. However, I’m concerned about your response times when it comes to returning emails and phone calls. Let’s take a look at your email and call volumes and create a plan of action to work through them more quickly. What steps do you think you could take to accomplish this?
Criticism lacking goal setting: Your response times seem to be lacking lately. We need to have you respond to calls and emails more quickly.
Keep it conversational
One-sided feedback is typically just criticism. Keep your sales reps from becoming defensive or getting in a negative headspace by asking questions to drive self-analysis.
Open-ended questions create a collaborative environment of coaching and honest dialogue. Many managers even find success by initiating constructive criticism with an open-ended question. That way, they can understand their sales rep’s perspective from the start.