Customer Experience News & Trends

How to use criticism to strengthen customer relations, boost sales

Receiving criticism is in the top 10 of the most stressful selling experiences for salespeople. Whether it comes from customers, peers or your sales manager, hearing your work criticized can be hurtful if you allow it to be. But it can help you. 

Avoid personalizing criticism

Some salespeople take criticism personally. Becoming defensive or argumentative is a natural reaction to criticism.

But you will grow and learn if you can adjust your attitude. Understand your own self-confidence, think about the big picture and inspect the message of the criticism. Be open to criticism that will help you and avoid emotional outbursts.

Receiving criticism

Receiving criticism doesn’t have to be stressful. As a receiver, you’re in control. Try not to focus on how the giver delivers the criticism. Focus instead on what the giver is saying.

Instead of listening with your mind working on how you can refute the criticism or argue against it, listen fully in order to understand it. Keep an open mind and view the criticism as helpful or, at the very least, intended to be helpful.

Not always negative

Criticism is not always negative. Sometimes you can use it to help bring your performance to a higher level. Try to view criticism as information, not judgment.

Focus on what people say, not on how they say it. Then, examine the criticism and determine how to proceed.

Mistakes to avoid

Here are four mistakes to avoid when accepting criticism:

  1. Rejecting information. “Argumentative receivers” take criticism personally instead of regarding it as simple information.
  2. Reacting before thinking. “Quick responders” react first and think later, or they might leap to conclusions. How you react to criticism matters. Receivers, not givers, hold the control.
  3. Denying mistakes. “Negative receivers” either can’t admit their mistakes or they blame others for them. To build trust and respect, it’s a good idea to own your mistakes. People will forget your mistakes, but they won’t forget how you handled them when they were called to your attention.
  4. Becoming a victim. “Victims” think they’re being preyed upon because they get vague criticism. Some givers aren’t specific enough, or they change their mind about what they want. This frustrates receivers and makes them feel victimized. As a receiver, try to find a way to work with vague givers.

When giving criticism

Some salespeople are reluctant to give criticism, too. They may lack confidence, want to avoid conflict or want keep others happy. This can be disastrous. Ignoring a problem and hoping it will disappear doesn’t work.

Preparation helps you build confidence and feel more comfortable offering feedback. Determine the purpose of the criticism you plan to deliver. Practice what you say before you say it. If the receiver can’t do anything about the matter you’re criticizing, don’t deliver it. Use specific examples to demonstrate what you want.

The right atmosphere

People have different preferences for how they wish to receive criticism. Some people like a direct approach, while others have to be treated more gently. Criticism that comes at unexpected times or from unexpected places is stressful. Try to avoid these errors when giving criticism:

  • “Quick draw.” These givers don’t consider the consequences of criticism and call it as they see it.
  • “More about me.” These givers have bad timing or deliver criticism according to their own preferences instead of the receiver’s preference.
  • “Hey you.” These givers make their criticisms personal, not impartial. When givers personalize criticism, their receivers hear blame and feel a lack of support.
  • “Guessing game.” These givers either express their issues vaguely or don’t provide clear instructions. They can be so polite they don’t outline anything specific to fix.
  • “Who cares.” Some givers rush their delivery, or they lack empathy. Givers in a hurry should wait until the moment is right.
  • “The sky is falling.” Not every matter is urgent, but this giver treats everything as equally important. Eventually, employees ignore these doomsayers, who then lose credibility.

Adapted from: The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt by Deb Bright, the founder and president of Bright Enterprises, a consulting firm focused on performance enhancement. 

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