The power of immediate feedback

Oct 16, 2012
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Probably the best recruitment I ever made when I was running my internet real estate startup was of a salesman named Bob. I stumbled onto Bob by accident and hired him in a daze of desperation after a disastrous experience with a previous salesperson.

Bob was coaching high school football when I met him, and he wasn’t exactly an expert in internet or in real estate. But he was a great people person, and as my co-founder observed, there was fire in Bob’s belly.

Bob’s disarming disposition proved to be a precious talent in convincing skeptical real estate brokers to join our service. In a few short months, Bob became a star salesperson and almost singlehandedly helped our business to surmount a key inflection point at the time.

I tried to covertly witness Bob in action in an effort to uncover the secret to his effectiveness. One of my favorite routines Bob exhibited was his habit of talking to himself in the car before entering a sales meeting. He would pump himself up by chanting, “You da man; you da man!” to himself in private.

This was just one example of the emotion and passion that Bob poured into every sales encounter. I asked Bob what made him so passionate about sales. After thinking about it for a while, Bob explained that what he liked most about sales, not dissimilar from high school football, was the “power of immediate feedback.”

Miss a tackle, and the opposing running back scores a touchdown. Misread a prospect’s needs, and the sale doesn’t close. Both experiences provide instantaneous feedback and allow one to move on. While good salespeople particularly thrive on it, it is human nature to crave on immediate feedback, starting from our first steps as toddler. Here’s one example of academic research in this area.

Accordingly, gleaning immediate feedback can be a powerful tool for the sales function of almost any business. It’s one of the underlying tenets of the minimum viable product philosophy in identifying a market. Once in growth mode, a company that knows its customer sufficiently well can make an educated guess of the customer’s next purchasing activity, thus further increasing revenue.

I push all of my portfolio companies to try to espouse people and processes that can harvest the power of immediate feedback.