Use 360 feedback to kickstart sales leadership training and development

The sales organization is obviously vital to the success of any organization. And the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the sales team primarily falls on the sales leadership team. Therefore, in our opinion, significant effort and resources should be invested in ensuring the sales leadership team is as effective as possible. One way to accomplish this goal is to provide sales leaders within the organization the opportunity and guidance to develop their skills. Often times companies are willing to invest in the sales leadership development of their leaders, they just don’t know where to start or how to make it an on-going process versus just sending the leaders to a “class.” The 360 survey tool and developmental process is a great way to start the long-term developmental process for your sales leaders.

The trick in any training initiative or developmental initiative is to accurately understand the skill gaps between what levels of a skill a leader has and what levels of the same skill are required for success on the job. This information provides the best opportunities for improvement, and maximizes the probability that improvement will occur.

Going through the process to generate a 360 feedback report on a sales leader is relatively easy in today’s times.  There is a lot of technology out there that makes the actual rating and reporting process easy for a company to undertake.  However, the quality of the 360 feedback report and the steps put in place for follow up/coaching are critical to the success of the developmental efforts, and absolutely will have a significant impact on the return on investment for the entire process.  

The 360 feedback report provides vital information on the competencies that are required for success in a sales leader.  The 360 feedback report therefore provides a clear roadmap and clarity into how each individual sales leader should spend their time engaging in developmental efforts. The process on effectively using the 360 results is relatively straight forward.  Once the 360 results are reviewed with each sales leader, the next step is to develop a plan that can be used to improve behavior as indicated by the 360 feedback report, and lastly manage the sales leader through the development plan.


The 3 key steps to achieving development:

1. Conduct the 360 degree surveys with each focal sales leader and their stakeholders – relatively easy work and takes 2 weeks.

2. Generate a 360 survey report – very easy work and takes 1 day.

3. Develop and coach the sales leader – difficult work and takes at least 3-4 months and never ends.

As we’ve said the development and coaching process is the difficult task.  The effectiveness of that task starts with a quality feedback report but relies on a systematic approach to development and coaching.


Follow these 6 simple steps to maximize your sales leadership training efforts utilizing 360 feedback and coaching:

1. Engage your sales leaders:

Define the coaching process with them and identify mutual responsibilities for maximizing the coaching experience. This can include providing an overview of the goals, process map, and strategies for effectively working together.

2. Identify:

Discuss the results of the 360 process with the sales leader. Identify the behaviors underlying potential development needs, identify the leader’s perceived development priorities and reach agreement on developmental needs for initial efforts.

3. Explore:

Explore developmental strategies and challenges for addressing agreed-to needs. Review the key components of a quality Individual Development Plan (IDP), and create an initial draft of a realistic IDP.

4. Plan:

Reach agreement on and finalize all aspects of the written IDP. Review the internal support strategies (i.e., immediate manager, partners, feedback agents, etc.) and external support strategies (i.e., a coach).

5. Support:

Continue to review the status on agreed upon IDP activities. Discuss perceived value and lessons learned from IDP experiences.  Discuss unanticipated challenges to accomplishing the IDP and reach agreements on any needed enhancements/revisions to the IDP.

6. Evaluate:

What gets measured gets paid attention to. So measure results and improvement and determine next steps.


There is no silver bullet in sales leadership training and development. At the end of the day, consistency is key, the more the sales leader works on their areas identified for improvement the more they will improve. The 360 feedback is a good way to start and finish the process of sales leadership development because it gives the sales leader an unbiased viewpoint into how they are perceived by their peers and many times this provides an element of trust and desire to improve. Many times, sales leadership training consists of a one-size-fits-all approach. 360 feedback provides a specific, personalized understanding of strengths and areas for improvement.

Don’t fall into the trap of the one size fits all approach. It is all too common that companies send their sales leadership to courses around the world giving them what they perceive to be the best of the best training in sales leadership. Oftentimes, in a room of a 100 sales leaders, getting trained – 20 of them need the training, 40 of them don’t know why they were sent in the first place, 20 of them think they already know what they are being taught and 20 of them have already been through the training in one way or another. Think of the wasted cost, time and effort and the diminished results.

Personalized sales leadership training programs keep the leader front and center. Yes, it takes longer than an afternoon or a few days of boot camp training but the results are exponentially better using a personalized approach. It seems obvious but because of the time investment, far too many companies choose the shortcut approach.



Related resource: 360 feedback guide

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