Sales teams that invest in a growth-oriented feedback culture outperform companies that fail to make feedback and coaching a priority. As a result, it’s critical for sales leaders to not only dedicate time to coaching and feedback but also to keep their positive and constructive feedback in balance.

Why Is Feedback Balance Important?

Positive feedback makes team members feel appreciated, builds trust and loyalty, and drives engagement and productivity. It also prepares team members to receive the inevitable critical feedback more openly.

Constructive feedback is necessary in order to help salespeople understand their gap areas and work productively to overcome them. Let’s first discuss the benefits of providing consistent feedback to sellers, and then dive into the steps for implementation.

The Benefits of Providing Consistent Feedback to Sellers

Team Members Develop Their Strengths

In many sales environments, feedback is only provided when a salesperson has made a mistake. In a balanced feedback culture, leaders also recognize when a team member has done something well, and they offer praise for it. This practice helps to identify where each team member excels and encourages them to further develop their skill set.

Team Members Are More Open to Constructive Feedback

When a team member regularly hears affirmation for what they’re doing well, they’re more open to discussing their challenge areas and ways to improve them. Over time, your team members will expect both positive and critical feedback and even crave both from their manager.

Team Members Are More Motivated and Engaged

Team members who receive frequent feedback on what they are doing right and wrong, and who understand the purpose of that feedback, feel more motivated to build their skills and improve their performance. Again, keeping a balance is key. Too much positive feedback can limit growth, and too much negative feedback can damage morale and discourage team members.

Team Dynamics Improve

A balanced feedback culture encourages team members to communicate frequently, to cheer each other on and to resolve conflicts quickly before they escalate. This environment leads to less conflict and better team dynamics. In addition, receiving effective feedback leads to more trust and transparency throughout the team.

How You Can Foster a Feedback Culture on Your Sales Team

Establishing and maintaining a feedback culture on your sales team doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require attention. Here are six steps to help you get you started.

1. Prioritize Trust

Without trust, people perceive feedback as threatening and are less likely to use it to improve performance. Before you can establish a feedback culture, your sales managers must win the trust of their team members. A great way to do so is for sales managers to discuss communication preferences from the start of the relationship and to review assessment information with each of their salespeople.

Encourage sales managers to practice candor when communicating with their teams. From time to time, they have to deliver a message that a salesperson doesn’t want to hear. As long as they deliver feedback constructively and with controlled emotion, it will have a positive effect on performance.

2. Involve the Salesperson

When deal coaching, it’s helpful for sales managers to ask salespeople what they thought went well and where they felt they could improve. When team members verbalize their own areas for improvement, they take ownership of and accountability for them.

This exercise is a great way to nurture self-awareness and a growth mindset on your team. Self-aware salespeople are more receptive to coaching and are much more effective when communicating with buyers during sales interactions. Help your reps gain a greater sense of self-awareness through the use of a comprehensive personal assessment.

3. Make Feedback Regular and Consistent

Performance reviews shouldn’t be the only time salespeople receive feedback. Develop a system by which everyone on the team knows to expect feedback at regular intervals and/or in association with predetermined events. For instance, sales managers might provide feedback on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, as well as after important sales calls, upon win or loss of a deal, and so on.

4. Provide Positive Feedback Separately From Negative

Common wisdom says to sandwich criticism between two compliments. However, this approach makes the recipient suspicious of the compliments, which diminishes their value and emphasizes resistance to the negative feedback.

When it’s necessary to provide both types of feedback in a single session, such as during regular coaching and review, managers should separate the positive from the negative so as not to diminish the value of each. Again, approaching the conversation with transparency and candor will make team members more receptive.

5. Make Constructive Feedback Direct, Expected and Impersonal

Constructive feedback is best delivered in a direct fashion without padding and without personal attacks. It is easiest for team members to receive critiques when they know they are intended to help them grow — not to knock them down. Managers should make sure everyone knows that he or she will receive improvement suggestions and feedback at regular intervals — and then follow through on that expectation.

6. Equip Sales Managers to Provide Productive Feedback

It’s crucial that your sales managers are providing good feedback, but coaching isn’t something that comes naturally for everyone — it’s a learned skill.

Effective sales coaches understand their team members and adapt their approach to match the communication preference of each individual. A comprehensive personal assessment tool can provide that insight to managers and give them specific guidelines for providing feedback and making the greatest impact with their coaching time.

By establishing a balanced feedback culture in your organization, you’ll condition your salespeople not only to be receptive to feedback but to crave it. Train your sales managers to effectively give feedback, and you’ll drive consistent growth and improvement for the entire business.