How to Get Valuable Feedback (Even When No-One is Offering It)

Feedback is vital for salespeople (and all other professionals), especially at the start of their careers, but some managers aren't very good at giving it. [bctt tweet="How to Get Valuable Feedback (Even When No-one is Offering it), by @MattJ_Lopez" username="StartupInst"]

Most salespeople enter the workforce without any real training in sales and a large part of this group believes that they can just “figure it out." The reality, however, is that many don’t. In fact, about 55% of people holding sales positions have little or no ability to sell, which is one reason sales rep turnover in SaaS (software-as-a-service) alone is estimated at 34%. To put this in comparison, the average employee turnover in the US in 2015 was a little less than 17%, around half the turnover seen in sales. Looking at these numbers, it’s easy to see why in sales, possibly more than any other profession, constant feedback from leadership, mentors, and peers is integral to a salesperson's success.[bctt tweet="#Feedback from leadership, mentors + peers is integral to a salesperson's success— @MattJ_Lopez " username="StartupInst"]

When I was a first-time sales manager, I wanted to make sure that I was always spending as much one-on-one time with my sales reps as I could. But without any formal sales management training, I wasn’t entirely certain of what kind of feedback I should be giving outside of pipeline review. In just a short amount of time, these informal feedback sessions became more check-ins that ultimately were not helpful to me or the rep. This sadly echoes the Gallup statistic—on average, only 27% of workers feel that the feedback they receive helps them improve on the job.

As a sales leader, I learned that giving honest feedback consistently was a great asset to the team and company, but as a salesperson, you can’t put your successes and failures entirely in the hands of management. With 68% of employees saying that their managers aren't actively engaged in their career development, it's tough to get feedback. However, as a salesperson, you should feel comfortable enough asking for it yourself.

Who, what, and how to ask for feedback?

Who?

It's highly unlikely that you work with only one person throughout the entirety of your job, so it makes no sense to avoid asking anyone you can for feedback. Yes, manager feedback is most important, but before you even get there, it can be really helpful to talk to your senior colleagues on how they see your work. They were in your place before you, so they can steer you in the right direction if you were off-course or give you tips on how to remain motivated and successful.

But don't just go after more experienced colleagues—talk to people in the same exact level as you, too. They might have different experiences that shape how they view the job and how it's done, which in turn offers you more refreshing insights on your own role. Plus, they are likely to share the same concerns, so talking these through benefits all parties.

What?

The quality and depth of the questions you ask will often determine the relevance and helpfulness of the feedback you'll receive. Stay away from questions that will only highlight negatives because if you feel your manager focusing on them, you're much less likely to be engaged in the workplace. Instead, ask specific yet holistic questions that will give you insight on how to improve within your role and grow professionally. Here are a few examples:

  • What, specifically, was my best attribute and contribution in this role so far?
  • Which of my professional traits impress you and which traits concern you?
  • What can I do to help other members of the team and impact overall efficiency?
  • What steps should I take next if I want to be at X position?
    • Always ask your manager how you can progress forward in your career, whether it's to a position at the next level or more generally.
  • Who else should I look to for guidance and mentorship?

[bctt tweet="Ask specific questions to improve within your role + grow professionally, says @MattJ_Lopez" username="StartupInst"]

Finally, when?

Most sizable companies have some formal performance review processes, but they usually take place annually or quarterly. This is a great time to ask similar questions as above, but that doesn't mean that asking for feedback once or four times a year is good enough. Your job is to always gather as much insightful feedback as you can.

The best times to do that are right before and after major projects or tasks. You'll get advice on how to tackle something larger than you're used to and following it, you'll get helpful tips on how to improve for next time. It's a win-win.

If your relationship with your peers and manager is really strong, you should really look to get feedback on a day-to-day basis. Millennials prefer this, by the way—80% of them to be exact. Why? This feedback is the most authentic because managers and colleagues won't have the time to prepare answers like they do for formal reviews and check-ins.

[bctt tweet="The best times to ask for feedback are right before + after major projects or tasks — @MattJ_Lopez" username="StartupInst"]

Can tracking data replace feedback altogether?

There are lots of solutions that are closing the gap in time it takes to share, request, and analyze feedback. There are micro-feedback platforms that allow team members of all levels to give plus-ones and shout-outs for small wins.

With multiple layers at Skaled, it’s important for our entire team to make sure that we are effectively communicating in all directions as frequently as possible. We use tools like 15Five to make sure it happens at least on a weekly basis. With that said, I don't think scheduled face-to-face conversations or even a simple, Hey, can I grab you for five minutes to talk about my role on this project? moments are going away anytime soon. Feedback is all about how coachable a person is, but also how perceptive a manager is in the work and people they oversee. For these two things to mesh, relationships have to be built between team members both off- and online.

[bctt tweet="#Feedback is about how coachable a person is + how perceptive their manager is— @MattJ_Lopez " username="StartupInst"]