Communicating with your sales team seems like it would be straightforward, doesn't it? Well, it's not particularly difficult--as long as you're aware of how what you say affects them.

Speak to them the right way, and their morale and effort will increase. Speak to them the wrong way, and you'll get the opposite: damaged morale and poor performance. Here are five timeless tips for talking to your sales team in a way that keeps them engaged and committed.

We're all expected to tell the truth, and most of us do. But there may be times when, because of an unpleasant business reality, you are inclined to bend the truth to make it more palatable to your sales team. Resist that temptation. History shows that it's best to lay out the truth and tell it like it is rather than obfuscate. The truth always comes out in the end, anyway. Telling the truth may require more explanation and a bit of courage on your part, but in the long run you'll be better off. If your team knows that you always tell the truth, they'll trust you--and that's vital. If they don't trust you, they're unlikely to perform well (or you'll lose them quickly).

I once worked as a sales rep under a leader who didn't tell the truth. This leader announced in a sales meeting that there would be some "minor adjustments" in the compensation program. This "minor adjustment," we found out later, was a 20 percent reduction in rep income! The leader lost all credibility with the sales team, resulting in turnover of sales reps and declining sales.

2. Give the bad news first.

This tip goes hand in hand with the previous one: If you do have bad news, the sooner you present it, the better. For one thing, giving folks the negative information early lets them take corrective action sooner. Giving bad news late also affects the trust your reps have in you. If you have bad news to give during a sales meeting and you do so at the end of the meeting, the attendees will likely leave feeling degraded. When you give it early, however, you give attendees time to digest the message and ask questions to ease any worry or disagreement they may feel. Better for your salespeople to go back to work thinking "It wasn't good news, but at least the boss is up front about it" than to wonder "Why did they wait so long to tell us!"

3. Praise them sincerely.

We all like praise, but salespeople thrive on it. They want to be acknowledged for their successes, and most of them value praise almost as much as money. But here's one important point as you go about praising your sales team: All of your praise must be sincere. Salespeople easily spot praise that's fabricated or that doesn't match up to their real achievements--and when you give that kind of praise, you'll be degraded in their eyes. So, be quick to praise with sincerity, but don't praise too often (you don't want it to become overly common), and never praise them when you don't feel it.

4. Don't criticize publicly.

When working with your sales team, criticism should be used only as a tool for personal improvement, not for public shaming or as an excuse for you to vent in front of the team. Public embarrassment doesn't teach; it tears apart relationships. When you criticize a rep, do so in a one-on-one setting, and in a way that helps the person change their ways and get better. If you take someone to task publicly, you prevent any goodwill your coaching might have created.

5. Be enthusiastic.

Most salespeople are positive and enthusiastic by nature, and they like being around others who share their attitude and outlook. When you are cheerful, optimistic, and full of energy, you will be seen as a dynamic leader and one they want to follow. A sales team energized to follow you is your most powerful competitive advantage, so nurture your genuine enthusiasm and let it show when you're talking with your sales team!

If you keep these tips in mind, you'll communicate with your sales team that helps them trust you--and that keeps them fired up and bringing in sales.