Giving effective performance feedback is a delicate art. You want to help your sales reps improve and motivate them to achieve even better results. However, you don’t want to lay on the constructive criticism so thick that you end up demotivating them. Delivering effective performance feedback requires a thoughtful approach.

According to David Dye, the co-founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, there are three problems that leaders often face when it comes to giving feedback. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we discuss Dye’s thoughts on these common issues along with ideas on how to solve them.

Problem No. 1: One-sided feedback. Some leaders only let their employees know when they’re doing great work—or when they’re not living up to expectations. This one-sided feedback isn’t helpful, says Dye. If you don’t address real performance concerns, you will end up frustrating your sales reps who want to get better. And if you only give critical feedback, you can demoralize people and they may wonder why they should even try.

Solution: Address both sides. Encourage your sales reps and also tell them when something isn’t working. Just don’t use the “sandwich method,” which is when you sandwich negative feedback in between two compliments. This feels manipulative, says Dye.

Problem No. 2: Giving vague feedback. Have you ever told a sales rep, “You’re doing great!” or “You need to step it up.” These generalizations don’t help because the employee doesn’t know what they did well or where they need to improve. Speaking in generalities can often lead to frustration and misunderstanding, Dye points out.

Solution: Address specific behaviors. When you commend your sales reps, tell them why their actions or behaviors impressed you. For example, you could say something like, “I know handling that last-minute client request was tough. You showed so much patience and professionalism. They called to let me know how much appreciate working with you and they’re renewing their account.” Likewise, if a rep isn’t performing up to par, let them know specifically what needs to change. Say something like, “I notice that you keep showing up to meetings 10 minutes late. We can’t allow that to keep happening.”

Problem No. 3: Delayed feedback. When delivering performance feedback, make sure it’s timely. Your sales reps probably don’t remember exactly what they were working on weeks or months ago. When you wait a long period of time to reflect on someone’s performance, you have no chance of changing behavior, says Dye.

Solution: Do it now. Remember that the more time that goes by, the less meaningful your feedback will be, Dye notes. When you speak up about what impressed you, you help motivate your sales reps to continue the behavior. And when you call out the unsatisfactory performance, you are setting an expectation so there will be no confusion.

As a leader, you have an opportunity to turn feedback conversations into productive discussions. Whether your feedback is vague, you wait too long to say something or you typically only provide one-sided feedback, think about how you can adjust your approach. By addressing these common problems with performance feedback, you can often energize your sales reps and give them the feedback they need to continue growing.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: David Dye is the co-founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, a training firm focused on human-centered leadership development. He is also a podcast host and the award-winning author of four books.