One of my favorite ways to learn about a particular company and role is to ride around with a sales person, meet customers, and truly see the selling process in motion. During the hours of listening and observing, I always like to ask about what kind of feedback the sales person is getting. From my vantage point, I see two types – one quantitatively oriented, the other qualitatively oriented.
I have to say, there is little more depressing than when the answer to a general question like “how’s business” is “I think it’s fine, but I don’t really know.” What I want to hear is a statistic like “sales are up 7% over last year, I am 105% of my quota year-to-date, my margins are up from 29% to 30%” and the likes. Sales people need access to accurate data about their customers, products, and transactions. I know when I was a sales person, this was my main form of feedback. Had I had a good or bad week? Were there products that were backordered, and what could I do about that? Did Customer X start buying the new product series I had demonstrated to the surgical staff?
If your sales person is not receiving or does not have access to data, or is not using the data to its full advantage so they can answer those kinds of questions, the company and Sales Manager are the ones who are missing out. Not only is that type of data a good source of feedback, but good reps also use it to plan and strategize how they are going to hit their targets. Price comparisons, looking for competitive conversion opportunities in product series customers have split between vendors, and matching new product offerings with the most promising customer opportunities are activities that lead to the growth everyone is looking for.
The other less than ideal answer I often get is “I never see him/her except at company meetings.” This is in response to another general question about how often the sales person sees his/her direct manager. Again, my view point only, I don’t think it’s enough to just rely on the data to provide the sales person feedback, and one of the best ways to offer real time feedback is to spend some time with the rep and actually see them detail the product, handle objections, and interact with the customer and staff. If possible, spending a half-day or day every 3-6 months is well worth the investment. Of course, when your reps are more tenured, you might lean more towards the 6 months mark, but it’s still important to pay some attention to them and help them fine-tune their skills, share what has been working in other parts of the region, and strengthen your rapport.
A rep is generally an independent breed, it’s true; however, making sure these two aspects of feedback are covered can only be a positive in the competitive world of sales!