Psychology research has shown that positive reinforcement and feedback can encourage repeatable behaviors. Positive feedback in sales can not only encourage positive behavior for salespeople who are still learning but also help to maintain existing behaviors for more experienced salespeople. Positive feedback, when used correctly, can increase performance and drive revenue.
A sales manager might tell a salesperson that they could listen to prospects and respond thoughtfully to their concerns. This type of feedback can reinforce behavior and result in good results.
Negative feedback can harm performance and behavior. Negative feedback, no matter how specific, can break other behaviors. This can lead to salespeople becoming dependent on their managers for direction.
Positive feedback can help people focus on improving their performance. It is better to give specific feedback about behavior, such as how a salesperson handles customer complaints, than just saying, “You screwed it up.”
Reinforce and shape your behavior.
Positive feedback, as mentioned earlier, can help you to shape new behaviors or maintain existing ones. When a salesperson is learning new skills, it’s essential to give positive feedback. Once the skill is mastered, it’s possible to maintain the behavior by providing positive feedback when needed. The reward of winning can be used as feedback.
Positive Feedback has many flavors.
There are many ways to provide positive feedback. These include constructive feedback, neutral feedback, and balanced assessments. Here is a brief overview of the first two.
Neutral feedback. This feedback is neither positive nor negative. It is meant to raise awareness among salespeople about their poor performance and make them accountable for it. This can be done at the weekly activity level, such as call goals. You can remind salespeople of the agreed-upon call rate and ask them to improve their performance if they fall below it. You can note the poor performance and take appropriate action if the problem continues. You might ask a sales representative why the problem persists and suggest possible solutions. You might also indicate a change and offer assistance. Follow-up is possible. You can use this opportunity to provide positive feedback to encourage incremental improvement and help you shape better behavior.
Give constructive feedback. Your sales team will view you as trustworthy and credible. This is possible through one-on-one relationships. If you have that kind of relationship, you can give objective feedback with the understanding that the person receiving it can improve his or herself with practice and preparation.
The Balanced Assessment
A balanced assessment is one of the best ways to get positive feedback in sales. This feedback allows salespeople to learn within their situation and helps them become more confident and motivated.
To conduct a balanced assessment, you could set up a call with the sales representative to observe any skill you feel is lacking. It could be an introduction call, a discussion of needs and solutions, or even a final negotiation call. The sales representative should prepare for the call and inform you about the goals and expected outcomes. As you are not there to prove your expertise, the sales representative should control the ring. After the call is over, you can assess with Joe.
Ask Joe after the call what went well and what went wrong. Joe can also be asked what he would change next time.
You have the chance to give your feedback after Joe has completed his self-diagnosis. Comment on Joe’s observations and let him know if you disagree.
You can start by stating a positive to reinforce what Joe did well. You could use reinforcement like, “You did a great job getting the prospect to share an issue that they can help with.”
When discussing corrective behavior, be as objective as possible and frame your feedback according to what you observed and heard. You could say, “Once we started talking about our product,” and Emily (the prospect) will look at her watch. She then became disengaged.
Then, you can suggest Joe for the next time. You could say, “Next time, ask more questions about the effect of that issue on her business’ operations.” For example, you might ask: “How long does it take?” You might ask, “How much longer does it take?” or “What additional costs are there?”
End the balance assessment by giving Joe confidence. Also, be prepared to roleplay with Joe before the next call, so he is more prepared.
Coach When You’re Needed
If you do not see behavior change with any of these approaches, it could be that there are other obstacles, such as a salesperson’s unwillingness to do the necessary work. These issues may require more coaching to address appropriately.