As sales organizations focus more and more on the human side of sales acceleration, increasing emphasis is being placed on sales competencies as an important foundational base from which to hire, train and develop sales teams. Especially in high-growth organizations, where reps are being hired quickly and often from varying sources and backgrounds, sales competencies are a great method for establishing a common language, process and measuring stick for sales.
The work to create a standard sales competency framework also requires sales leadership, and often supporting roles in training, marketing and product, to not only agree on the skills and behaviors most important for sales success, but actually document and define them in an actionable way.
You’ll want to start by asking and answering some critical questions about the maturity of your specific market, the complexity of your buying cycle, and the required experience level of your reps. Once those are understood, it’s time to assemble the key stakeholders and begin the diligent work of solving for this: “How do we create a model that defines what makes some people more successful at sales than others, and more importantly, what are the skills and behaviors that must be reproduced across our team to ensure everyone improves?”
Many companies approach this by starting with their chosen sales methodology, say Challenger Selling or Solution Selling. Not a bad place to begin, but it’s important to keep in mind that many sales methodologies assume a “least common denominator” baseline (i.e., these are the skills required for most salespeople, in the most common selling scenarios and markets). This can mean disaster if your sales reps need very specific skills and behaviors that are unique to your market or customer profile. More importantly, its highly likely that these “cookie cutter” competencies will fail to deliver any measurable improvement in your team’s performance or your bottom-line.
As a best practice, sales competencies should be individualized for your company, and in many cases, the roles within your specific sales team (managers versus reps, for example, or Inside Sales teams who are often focused on more transactional, phone-based interactions versus Field teams who are engaging face to face, often with large groups.) This approach can produce far greater results as managers must consider the unique combinations of personality, proficiency and behavior that produce “rock star” reps, but where do you start?
Our newest toolkit, focused on Sales Competency Development, can help! This easy-to-use Excel-based template is designed to help you define and communicate your team's specific sales competencies, and even includes some suggested content to get you started.
The first worksheet focuses on common competencies for a sales representative. The second worksheet builds on those foundational competencies to focus on skills and capabilities specifically required of sales managers. (We’ve even included a ratings rubric to help you deploy and test quickly.) The final worksheet is blank, allowing you to develop your own unique framework.