In the second part of this series we look at how to give feedback. Sales coaching is very different from other types of coaching as they are often unaware of the areas they need to work on, so using coaching to develop them relies on us being honest in the feedback we give.

Here are seven top tips to help you give the best feedback to your people you’re coaching:

1. Talk about the feedback process
Being honest with your feedback is not an excuse for being brutal; we want our sales people to see our feedback as helpful and encouraging. When I was a sales person I took any feedback really personally and it can be really hard to not see it as a threat to my position, after all we are judged on results. Equally as a manager because of feeling like this ourselves we often avoid giving feedback so we don’t upset anyone, so it can all be a bit of a mess. In my previous blog I talked about contracting and this is vital to avoid these feelings. Ask them up front how they want feedback to be given and tell them you also want feedback as these coaching sessions are an opportunity to learn from each other.

2. Don’t use the s**t sandwich
Please don’t use the praise, criticise, praise technic – it’s so passive aggressive and obvious. That said it’s just as important to feedback on the positive as it can help strengthen other areas for example “ I think you have created some really good relationships with your accounts and your listening skills are excellent, I think you could can use this to get more feedback from them you definitely earn the right to ask questions around what they think of your solutions.

3. Be specific and use examples
Give clear and specific examples of what you have seen/heard and what impact did it have on the call or customer. It means you will need to be very focused in your observations, but you owe them that if you want to give feedback.

4. Ask questions
You don’t want this to be all one way, ask them what they think and really listen to their thoughts, they may have reasons for what they did and you might not always be right. Be careful about leading questions though for example “How well do you think you closed the meeting” suggests you have some feedback you want to give so give it and then ask what they think. If you want them to feedback on themselves ask questions like “What do you think worked well in this call” “What will you do next time you visit this account” “What are your thoughts on the call with…”

5. Feed forward
Talk about the future, what could they try, what advice can you give, how will you support them, what do they need etc. etc. Taking feedback forward keeps it constructive and developmental for example “case studies are much more impactful if you turn them into a story, bring them to life and make them personal how do you feel about trying that?”

6. Be consistent and realistic
Again if you set up in advance how these sessions will go and are honest and open you will build up the trust and the sessions will become more and more comfortable. Be realistic about what you can achieve if there is a lot to give feedback on then prioritise otherwise you could totally demoralise or confuse them. Coaching is step by step; Andy Murray didn’t become a great tennis player in one coaching session.

7. Follow up with an email
Its really nice to email you team member thank them for their time and summarise what has been said and agreed. It shows real commitment and that you genuinely care, it also acts as a good record of your coaching and can be referred to on your next visit.

In Part 3 we’ll look at how to deal with defensive behaviour