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Giving it to them straight: 360-degree feedback for your sales team

10th Mar 2016
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Are you sitting comfortably?  Once upon a time there was a salesman.  He worked hard every day and, as long as he met or beat his targets, very few questions were asked about the methods he used. Unsurprisingly, this allowed (if not encouraged) dubious practices amongst some in his profession. In turn, the reputation of the entire profession became extremely tarnished.  Are you familiar with that tale?

Happily, most organisations now value high quality, professional sales people. Companies care as much about how people sell, as the results they achieve. Businesses understand the importance of maintaining a great reputation in the market and realise that sales people are often the ‘face’ of the company.

This presents a new challenge. How does a company encourage and measure appropriate behaviour in a sales team? The answer is actually straight-forward: introduce 360 degree feedback. But how should you go about doing this?

1. Communicate

Before introducing the programme, it’s important to communicate with the sales team a number of things:

  • why you are implementing the programme
  • how it’s going to work
  • what’s going to happen
  • when everything is going to happen and
  • what the impact or consequence will be of not scoring highly in the programme.

Without this communication, you may find yourself faced with resistance from your sales team, who may be imagining the worst!

2. Behaviour

Next, it’s important to establish what behaviour you want to encourage and measure. Often, an organisation will already have a competency framework and that’s the best starting point for this. If not, then it’s worth investing in some support from a business psychologist to design a useful questionnaire for you. Typically, the areas covered include:

  • integrity
  • communication
  • fairness
  • determination and
  • commercial awareness.

Each organisation is different and each sales team has a slightly different job, so it’s worth investing the time in getting this right for your specific business.

3. Reports

Having implemented the programme, you need to ensure that the reports are clear and easy to interpret. They also need to provide enough supporting detail to be as useful as possible. It’s usually best to structure the reports to contain a summary at the beginning and the detailed information at the end.

4. Development

Interestingly, the whole programme will be valueless unless there is a clear plan for developing the team members, based on the results of the programme.  You need to ensure that there is structure and support for creating development plans with each individual. On-going support to check on progress is equally important.

5. Measure again

One of the useful things about 360-degree feedback is that you can repeat it after six or twelve months to see what progress has been made. If it becomes part of your normal business cycle, then you will be able to see the benefits of a sales team that not only achieves the right results, but also does it in the way you want.

If 360-degree feedback is not part of your sales team’s experience, then it may be time to introduce it.  It will assist you in establishing and monitoring the good practices you want all of your sales people to follow, as well as providing a clear measure of progress from year to year.  The question shouldn’t be should you introduce it, but rather, how have you managed without it?

Heather Foley is a consultant at etsplc.com, provider of HR consultancy and technology

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