“Honesty has a power that very few people can handle.” This quote by author, Steven Aitchison, made me think about how convenient it is to avoid the truth. Or, more specifically, how we buy into our own beliefs and convictions without the benefit of the views of others. It is comfortable to avoid introspection. The downside is that we miss the useful, contextual information we need for our professional development. When you ask for feedback, you gain insight, and you demonstrate your willingness to be a better communicator. In sales, asking for feedback from a client shows that you are dedicated to their best interests.
Why is it important to ask for feedback?
Feedback is a means of improvement. It helps you to shape your sales efforts to better meet the needs of your client. Learning to ask for feedback is important because it helps you quickly get to objections that can derail a sale later in the game. Scoring points early in the process makes final negotiations much easier. Uncovering and handling objections upfront makes more time to communicate product features and benefits. It allows more time to devote to the unforeseen hurdles that often crop up. Beyond the product, asking for feedback on your personal communication and interaction shows that you choose to learn about yourself and how you are perceived. To see ourselves as others see us is a powerful tool, indeed. When communication is open and transparent, it requires less effort to work together toward the common goal of need satisfaction and repeat business.
How to ask for feedback
Kim Scott, writing for radicalcandor.com, presents an order of operations to practice what they call the principles of Radical Candor. The first thing suggested is to ask for criticism. This is awkward and, at times, paralyzing. Coping skills for criticism are examined in this recent SalesFuel post. Keep in mind that to ask for feedback, or criticism, can be difficult for both parties.
Devise a go-to question
Not a question that can have a “yes” or “no” answer. Be authentic and ask directly what you can do to make it easier for you to work together. What can you stop doing? What, specifically, would your client most appreciate?
Commit to receiving a response
Awkward or not, insist on a genuine response. Ask for feedback in a way that elicits a candid discussion. Repeat the question and wait in silence for an answer if necessary. Scott suggests going so far as to call out their body language or nonverbal cues in order to get to the client’s thoughts.
Listen carefully to understand. Not to respond
Once you receive the criticism or feedback, repeat it to solidify and clarify. Control emotional impulses and manage your feelings to gain more insight. When you ask for feedback, you want to listen to the answer and deeply understand, not defend.
Reward the candor
“Thank you, sir. May I have another”. It’s not exactly like that, but showing you understand and taking immediate action can be a visible sign that you are trying. You will strengthen the relationship and your client will speak more freely. That, after all, is the goal and the reason to ask for feedback in the first place.
Ask for feedback regularly
Feedback will help your sales performance. It will allow you to fix mistakes quickly and to improve your problem-solving capabilities. It is surprising what you will learn from your customers when communication flows unencumbered by false modesty or polite reluctance. Handling bold honesty, frank criticism and well-intentioned feedback is a solid building block for career development.
Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash