Just like deli meat gets sandwiched between two pieces of bread, most managers insert a thin slice of praise between two thick slices of criticism. Often it’s such a thin slice that the salesperson can’t even taste it. There is an ancient maxim that says, “A bit of perfume always clings to the hand that gives roses.” So when you make your salespeople feel great, you are also elevated.

For instance you might respond to one of your folks with, “High five on the way you conducted the presentation this morning. I was surprised by the number of objections you encountered, but you handled them remarkably well. You have a great ability to stay cool and help your prospects come to agreement on the best solutions. It is a pleasure to have you on our team.”

Year after year the most frequent employee complaint regardless of job title or industry is not being recognized for a job well done. Praise serves a crucial role in problem solving because when it’s given sincerely and often, it provides a reserve of respect that managers can draw on when the time comes to deal with a failure. In advance of those inevitable discussions, if management has praised liberally and built up a reservoir of goodwill, salespeople will realize the boss has their best interest at heart, as a result of the consistent recognition from when things went well.

It’s common for managers to focus on negatives when dealing with their sales folks, mainly because they haven’t been trained to “catch them doing something right.” Therefore they are apprehensive about going overboard when it comes to praise. They think it will be cheapened if it’s overdone, which is not sound thinking.

Here’s a thought; why not start praising employees for lack of problems, rather than just for spectacular accomplishments? Major accomplishments are naturally noticed, and honoring them is often routine. The desire your people have for more praise can’t be satisfied by celebrating only mammoth happenings. Praise your folks even more than you think you should, and then get goofy and double that amount of recognition! You will love the results.

Mark Twain once said: “I can live for two months on a good compliment and a little bread and water.”

In order to “reverse the curse” of low praise levels, here are three suggestions for management to consider doing differently:

Make a Praise Commitment – You have to really care about being pleasant and thoughtful and make up your mind to do it. That won’t be easy in industries with tough day-to-day cultures like pest control or HVAC.

Change the Standards – Noticing a daily activity done correctly should be enough for you to offer a thoughtful word.

Put in Place Simple Cues – Establish reminders to trigger the verbalizing of these “attaboys.”

Informal recognition is far more important than the formal variety, and you should consider giving ten times as many of those as formal ones. It’s as simple as writing personal notes and/or tests, stopping people face to face in the office and verbalizing appreciation, or giving a coffee shop gift card or providing a free lunch to someone who consistently does their job.

It’s as simple as telling people what they did and why it’s worth noting, ending with a “thank you.”    For example:

“Seymour, I can always count on you to be on time for the morning meetings and I want you to know how important that is to me. Thanks for being so consistent.”

“Olivia, the accuracy you always exhibit on the month-end close is really awesome. That is so important to the healthy operation of our branch. Thank you very much.”

“Nerlman, I want you to know that I notice you are the first one here each morning. It’s so pleasant to know that day after day you can be counted on to have the lights on and the coffee brewing when everyone gets here. Thanks for being a crucial member of our team.”


Recognition is one of the secret weapons necessary to catapult you to the next level of management. Recognition should be informal, spontaneous, and an important part of your corporate culture. It is also the best way to improve employee retention.

If you make praise a common part of your management style, when you do have a confrontation you will have built such a safe, trusting, and respectful relationship with your people, that the correction will be viewed more positively and accepted as in their best interest. It’s a great way to balance confrontations with confirmations!


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