When most people think about utilizing 360 feedback it is in the context of Leadership Development. Some of the most important leadership positions within any organization is the sales leadership team yet they are seldom included in the 360 feedback process, especially at the first level of sales management. Yet these are the individuals that have the greatest impact on the direct performance of the sales force. By improving the capabilities of the sales leadership team, the overall sales performance of the organization will increase.
However, not all 360 feedback processes will work with sales leaders. Often organizations focus so much on driving direct sales that development is neglected. While development does not happen overnight there is a direct relationship between development of salespeople and long-term performance (i.e., sales) improvement.
There are six key factors which will impact how successful the overall 360 feedback process is within the sales organization.
1. Content needs to be focused on sales leadership skills versus generic leadership skills.
When this is done the acceptance of the 360 feedback process is much greater. For example, Driving for Results as a competency needs behaviors that are written specifically in the context of sales. Using generic leadership behaviors will not be accepted by the sales teams. Quality content leads to quality information which in turn leads to the ability to pinpoint specific development needs.
2. Change the 360 feedback process from an event to an ongoing development process.
Often 360 feedback is seen as an event with an end date. It becomes a 2 week focus to collect ratings, generate a report, and discuss the feedback report with the participant. For the sales leader this will not work. The 360 feedback event needs to be turned into a developmental process and a mentality that will lasts year-round.
3. Follow up support is needed to help the sales leader through the development process.
Many times, sales leaders are in their position because they are great salespeople. They have probably not had much training on leadership skills and their major focus is on driving the performance of their sales team. Therefore, they will need support through the feedback and development process. A feedback partner/coach will need to provide more time than with other 360 feedback processes.
4. Strive for small wins and capitalize on them.
Many sales leaders will see the 360 feedback process as daunting and a bit overwhelming. Therefore, make sure the coaches help breakdown the development process in to small, manageable activities that have large gains in return. As soon as the sales leader finds something that works with their team, they will be more open and likely to scale the activities.
5. Measure the effectiveness of the development efforts and evaluate the impact throughout the 360 feedback process.
Many people have heard “the proof is in the pudding.” When a sales leader can show success (i.e., increased revenue) through development efforts than the effort and scope will continue to increase. Even if a sales leader starts the development process with only one of their team once that individual shows benefits from process more will follow.
6. Ensure that part of the development focus for the sales leader is to develop the skills of their sales team.
By coaching the sales leader through their own development we are building the skills they need to develop their salespeople. In other words, ensure that one key skill on which to focus during the 360 feedback process is Developing Talent. A few examples of specific, sales related behaviors to be rated in this competency include:
- Identifies sales representatives who are star performers (and who have potential to advance), and proactively works to develop and retain that talent.
- Works with sales representatives to prepare and update development plans helps facilitate their professional and career development.
- Provides ongoing feedback and coaching to help sales representatives develop and achieve their goals.
The sales organization within any company is a major factor in the success of that company. Yet the amount of development activities that sales leaders engage in is often disproportionate to the impact they have on the organization. The 360 feedback process is a straightforward way to close that gap. The process is inherently easy to implement and simple for people to understand. The biggest missing piece when companies engage in the 360 feedback process with the sales team is not giving the sales leaders enough tools to take the information in the feedback report and implement and execute a quality development plan. Behavior change is not easy for anyone and does take time. There is no magic wand that will shortcut that process. However, when done correctly, the 360 feedback process is one way that makes the entire sales organization better.
Related Resource: 360 Degree Feedback: Your Complete Guide
Related Blog Post: 360 Feedback Examples – Competencies and Survey Items