How Sales Managers Deliver Effective Praise

By Butch Bellah

As a manager, you have to be conscious of the fact that praise is as important for your team as criticism — sometimes more important. Too many times a managers’ only feedback to employees is negative — what they did wrong. It’s time to change that.

You often fail to acknowledge when people do a good job — every manager does. But, you’re probably very quick to let someone know when she’s doing — or is close to doing — a bad job (or underperforming). So, human nature takes over and the employee ends up doing just enough to stay above that bad-job line.

What a waste — a waste of her talent, time, energy, and ultimately your company’s productivity and profits.

Just as you let people know when they’re performing substandard work, tell everyone about doing extraordinary work. Be the bell ringer and shout it from the mountaintops. Criticize when necessary, but praise when it’s deserved. You’ll be amazed at the results.

How to recognize your sales superstars

In addition to sales contests, incentive programs, annual rewards, and other recognitions, the fact remains that you must always recognize your top performers. Whatever criteria you choose to judge them by is irrelevant; you have to let them know their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Great salespeople have great egos and those egos have to be stroked periodically. Not daily, but regularly. Most people want to do a good job at whatever they do, but your true superstars are performing at that level for a reason. They don’t settle for less.

Regardless of whether you have a contest or incentive program running, stay in close contact with your sales leaders.

Include the elite performers in some of your decision making — get their input and opinions and honestly listen to them. Let them be a part of the process. Sometimes that’s all they need is to know you recognize their achievements.

How to celebrate the sales wins

“The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” For sales managers that old saying usually means the problems and the lost customers are where you focus your time and attention and that you miss out on the good stuff. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

You need to celebrate the wins. When a salesperson lands a new account — send out a mass email, a text message, or another form of a virtual high five. Get everyone in on the action!

Winning is contagious. When you start celebrating the wins, you’ll have more people winning — not just more wins. More members of your team will want to be recognized and cheered. It’s a really fun cycle to be a part of and watch grow.

Everyone wants to get on the celebration train. No one wants to be left out. If you’re sending out a mass text congratulating Marita, don’t you think Javier’s ego wants to play, too? Absolutely! People love to be a part of a winning team. There’s camaraderie there unlike any other, and it feeds right into the ego of most professional salespeople.

If you have a salesperson who’s struggling, you may have to stretch a little to celebrate her. It may take a bit of work to find something to celebrate, but it’s there and those struggling probably need that public acknowledgement the most.

Why it’s not always about the money

Different people are motivated by different things. It’s not always about the money. In fact, money is seldom as good as something you have to put some thought into.

Like a birthday gift for your spouse, using cash as an incentive is a bit of a cop-out. It’s too easy. Heck, anybody can just give away money. Well, okay not anybody, but you get the idea.

Try to come up with ideas and incentives people either wouldn’t or couldn’t come up with on their own. Instead of just throwing money at them, get creative! Instead of $1,000 cash, think about how your team would respond to some of these:

  • Two front-row tickets to a sold-out concert. They’re not as hard to get as you’d think. Many ticket brokers have great seats for the right price.

  • An overnight stay in a presidential suite. Go big! Find the most exclusive hotel in your area and book its most expensive suite — complete with all the trimmings!

  • A private helicopter tour of the city. Hey, don’t be afraid to get crazy! Be creative.

  • A seven-course dinner for two in a private dining room in the finest restaurant in town. Wow!

Think about the difference between these and cash. People spend money and don’t really remember what they spent it on. But, with a unique and personal reward, you’re making memories! You’re putting your people in situations they’ll never forget.

If at all possible, include a spouse or loved one in the program. A dinner for two or concert for two is much more meaningful than sending someone alone. The trick to making the prize something that really moves the needle is to come up with ideas and items the recipient wouldn’t buy for herself.

Never destroy their confidence

At no time should a reward demotivate someone. Be very careful about the wording, the design and the execution of the programs. Just because you have winners doesn’t mean you have losers. A salesperson’s psyche is a fragile thing.

You spend enough time keeping your team pumped up without creating problems for yourself with ill-chosen language. So, as you roll out your awards programs, take a little time to double-check everything and make sure there isn’t a way the wording could be misconstrued. It’s not worth it.

Most people want to win. They want to succeed and have fun doing it. Be the type leader others want to work with and for. Create an atmosphere and environment where your sales team can enjoy themselves and be a part of something special. You’ll be amazed at the results.