The Difference Between Sales Coaching and Manager Feedback
Our lives have become inundated with feedback. Think about all of the apps on your phone that you use to grab a ride, rent a villa, book a hotel room, make dinner reservations. They all give you the option for feedback. It's all about feedback but manager feedback is not sales coaching. In fact, the difference between sales coaching and manager feedback is significant. So what is my issue with feedback?Think about how you feel when someone such as your manager turns to you and says, "I'd like to give you some feedback." Nobody wants to hear those words. Why? It's almost always negative. When someone says they want to give you feedback you instinctively put your guard up and go on the defensive. People don't want feedback, people want attention.
Working at the office is no different. Recruiters and salespeople are not looking for feedback from their manager's, but they are looking for attention. The attention they're looking for however is positive reinforcement that they're doing a good job and support and encouragement on how to do an even better job. This is not feedback, this is sales coaching.
Manager feedback focuses on what the rep is doing wrong; Sales coaching focuses on what the employee is doing right.
The purpose of providing feedback is for the manager to share with the sales rep their analysis and perceptions of the employee's performance. Feedback typically focuses on the past and doesn't make the rep feel good because the feedback is typically constructive. Recruiters and salespeople know when they are receiving feedback because the manager is usually making a statement like "you're doing a good job, but..." The sales rep knows what is coming next, after the "but." With feedback the manager typically focuses his or her feedback on behaviors or activities that they would like their recruiter or salesperson to stop or change.
When a sales rep responds to feedback or asks their manager for more feedback regarding their performance it is usually because they want a more detailed analysis from their manager, but that doesn't imply they're going to change (or want to change) their behavior. They simply want more information.
When managers provide feedback for their employees, they shouldn't expect them to change behavior. When receiving feedback from the manager, employees are not willingly listening to and agreeing to the manager's feedback, they're simply hearing it out of obligation.
Sales coaching on the other hand includes a willing participant, the sales rep, who is open to learning and growing and improving performance through sales coaching. They are open minded and committed to changing their behavior in order to improve their results. Coaching is all about the rep and what it is they want to achieve and helping the rep achieve those goals. Sales coaching is about focusing on the reps strengths and helping the rep optimize those strengths. Coaching is different from providing feedback because the manager is focused 100% on helping the rep improve their performance, whether it be improving a strength or developing a weakness. Either way, sales coaching focuses on the positive and what the rep will do in the future.
Other differences between manager feedback and sales coaching
Because coaching is collaborative and deliberate, it requires thoughtful planning and preparation by both the sales rep and the manager. For these reasons, coaching is a planned event (that ideally happens on a consistent and recurring basis) and is delivered more effectively when planned in advance than off the cuff.
- Feedback is corrective.
- Coaching focuses on possibilities. Feedback focuses on adjustment.
- Coaching is about future behavior. Feedback is about past (or current) behavior.
- Coaching is inquiry-oriented in which managers lead with questions. Feedback is scrutiny-oriented. Managers focus on "telling."
- Coaching stems from educational and developmental needs. Feedback is often derived from judgmental based questions.
- Coaching is about advocating optimal performance. Feedback is about reinforcing appropriate behavior.
- Coaching is more about helping employees grow. Feedback is more about helping employees not fail.
- Coaching guides employees in the direction that suits them best. Feedback ensures that employees uphold espoused values and meet expectations.
In this day and age what we all want is for our leader to see things through our eyes and see our world through our lens and from our perspective and help us understand how to adjust from where we are in order to grow and develop.
If you’re going to give feedback, make sure it comes from a place of coaching. Nobody wants to be judged, but everyone would appreciate being coached on how to course-correct to achieve better results. While the temptation will be there to give feedback, just remember you will never get the outcomes from it that you’re looking for. Sales reps and employees in general aren’t asking you to tell them where they stand, they’re asking you to help them get to where they're trying to go.
What coaching challenges do you face in your organization? Does your IT staffing firm have a coaching culture or is it more feedback oriented? Lets start a conversation in the comments section below.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.