Two recent blogs examined the strategy and techniques of sales team/client feedback — the bedrock of mutual understanding and innovative team selling. This week, we’ll zero in on positive feedback; delivering the “good news” of sales team and client behaviors that we see as beneficial and constructive. Take note: even positive feedback, inappropriately chosen or delivered, can quickly become ineffective (at worst, sounding insincere and patronizing).
The following considerations apply both to giving positive feedback within our sales team, as well as feedback dialogs with our client. Obviously, our style and delivery should be somewhat more understated when praising the client — but our positive feedback objectives and, hopefully, its impact are the same.
First and foremost, remember that the primary objective of all positive feedback is to reinforce the beneficial behavior being discussed; i.e., to get somebody to keep doing what he/she is already doing well. (Secondarily, it’s nice to know that she/he will also feel recognized, appreciated, and maybe even flattered.) Four positive feedback tips for the consultative salesperson:
- Make sure the positive feedback subject is carefully chosen, truly meaningful to us, and potentially consequential to the business. If the feedback item is trivial or vague, it signals that it may not matter much to us; could it merely be a lead-in to a criticism — a transparent attempt to “butter somebody up” before “lowering the boom”? Our genuine praise isn’t working if it sounds like there’s a “but” looming on the horizon…
- Make sure the feedback is clear and specific: describe tangible actions performed and use verbatim quotes. Examples: [To a sales teammate]: “You told the client, ‘Your agenda always takes precedence over ours’,” rather than just, “You obviously respected the client.” [To a client]: “In today’s meeting with your boss, you were very supportive of us by stressing that this was a joint brand team/sales team recommendation,” rather than just, “You were very supportive of us in today’s meeting.”
- Describe how and why the positive behavior is important; i.e., what it accomplishes. Cite positive, tangible “business consequences” that result from this kind of behavior. Even though the benefits may seem obvious, don’t give this element short shrift; “spell it out.” Example [to a client]: “Your clear-cut endorsement of our proposals helps assure their acceptance by your top management.”
- Consider asking your client if she/he wants to comment on our positive feedback; during internal coaching situations, definitely query a sales team colleague for his/her response to our positive feedback. Everybody enjoys being invited to comment on her/his own recognized quality performance, and their talking about it helps achieve our reinforcement objectives.
We’ve noted previously that giving unsolicited feedback can be risky; even positive feedback must be clearly structured, sincerely intended and important to the business at hand. Craft its content and delivery carefully to maximize its impact and reinforce the repetition of the desired behaviors in the future.
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