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Elevating Feedback: A Guide for Sales Managers to Foster Growth

Sales Managers - Some Feedback: Your Feedback needs Feedback. Some tips to improve:

The Pitch
Feedback is the cornerstone of development in any sales team, but its delivery is often where managers falter. The art of providing feedback that is both constructive and empowering is a skill that separates good managers from great leaders. A Harvard Business Review study suggests that while 72% of employees believe their performance would improve with feedback, only 44% of managers give effective feedback. This gap highlights the need for managers to refine their feedback techniques to not only address performance issues but also to encourage professional growth and development.

Ask the person if now is a good time.
Timing can be as critical as the message itself. Before diving into feedback, it's respectful to ask if the recipient is in the right headspace to receive it. This simple question demonstrates consideration for their current state and can significantly impact how the feedback is received. It sets a tone of mutual respect and opens a dialogue rather than a monologue. By ensuring the timing is right, managers can increase the likelihood that their feedback will be considered thoughtfully and taken seriously. In "Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well" by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, the authors emphasize the importance of timing and readiness in feedback reception. They suggest that feedback is most effective when the recipient is mentally prepared to engage with it, which reinforces the need to ask for permission before proceeding. This approach not only shows empathy but also aligns with the principles of adult learning, where readiness to learn is a key factor in the effectiveness of any developmental intervention.

Tell them you are going to give feedback.
Setting expectations is key. Informing someone that feedback is forthcoming prepares them mentally to receive and process the information. It's a clear signal that shifts the conversation from casual to serious, allowing the recipient to brace themselves for constructive criticism. This transparency helps to eliminate surprises and can reduce the defensive reaction often associated with unsolicited advice. In "Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity" by Kim Scott, the concept of clear and compassionate communication is central. Scott argues that telling someone they are about to receive feedback helps to create a culture of candor that is essential for personal and professional growth. This upfront approach can help to normalize feedback within the team, making it a regular part of the conversation rather than a dreaded event.

Share what you observe.
Feedback should be based on observable facts, not assumptions or interpretations. When managers share specific observations, it provides a clear and objective foundation for the discussion. This approach helps to depersonalize the feedback, making it about the behavior or performance and not the individual. By focusing on what was observed, managers can create a more productive conversation that is less likely to trigger an emotional, defensive response. In "The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever" by Michael Bungay Stanier, the emphasis is on the power of staying objective and focusing on what you can see and hear. Stanier suggests that this tactic not only makes feedback more palatable but also more actionable, as it is free from personal bias and ambiguity.

Be direct - sugar coating helps nobody.
Directness in feedback is essential for clarity and effectiveness. Sugarcoating can dilute the message and lead to misunderstandings about the seriousness of the issue. Being direct doesn't mean being harsh; it means being honest and straightforward about what needs to change. This clarity helps the recipient understand the exact nature of the feedback and what is expected of them moving forward. In "Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time" by Susan Scott, the author advocates for the importance of directness and truth in communication. Scott posits that while sugarcoating may seem kinder, it often confuses the message and can ultimately be more harmful than helpful. Direct feedback, delivered with empathy, can foster a deeper understanding and prompt meaningful change.

Ask what they think about what you shared.
Feedback should be a two-way street. After sharing observations, it's important to ask the recipient for their perspective. This not only shows respect for their viewpoint but also encourages them to engage with the feedback and take ownership of their development. It can also provide insights into any underlying issues that may be contributing to the behavior or performance in question. In "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey, the habit of seeking first to understand, then to be understood, is directly applicable to the feedback process. Covey's principle suggests that by asking for the other person's perspective, managers can gain a fuller understanding of the situation, which can lead to more effective and personalized feedback.

Offer to help by observing and coaching.
The offer of support is what transforms feedback from criticism to coaching. By offering to help, managers demonstrate their commitment to the individual's growth and development. This support can take many forms, from observing and providing real-time feedback to setting up coaching sessions to work on specific skills. This collaborative approach to improvement builds trust and reinforces the idea that the manager is invested in their success. In "Coaching for Performance" by John Whitmore, the role of the manager as a coach is explored in depth. Whitmore argues that offering support and guidance through coaching is one of the most effective ways to improve performance and develop skills. This approach not only addresses current performance issues but also contributes to the long-term development of the team members.

So What?
Effective feedback is a dialogue that respects timing, sets clear expectations, relies on observations, maintains directness, seeks understanding, and offers support. When done correctly, it not only addresses areas for improvement but also strengthens the relationship between manager and team members, fostering a culture of continuous growth and trust.

Next Steps
✅ Check timing before giving feedback.
✅ Set the stage for feedback.
✅ Base feedback on observations.
✅ Be clear and direct.
✅ Engage in a two-way dialogue.
✅ Offer coaching and support.

Closed Won!
Feedback is an essential tool for growth in any sales environment. How do you ensure your feedback leads to positive change and growth? Share your strategies below. Your experiences and insights can help create a community where continuous improvement is the norm, and feedback is a gift that everyone values. And remember... Praise in Public, Provide Feedback in Private.

Leave a comment or question below, let's help each other, and our reps move those deals to "Closed Won!"

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