Sales and Sales Management Blog

May 18, 2011

Guest Article: “Identify and Develop the Competencies that Lead to Success in Sales,” by Sean Conrad

Filed under: career development,sales,selling,success — Paul McCord @ 1:26 pm
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Identify and Develop the Competencies that Lead to Success in Sales
by Sean Conrad

One of the questions sales managers often ask themselves is how they can get their entire team to produce like their star performers do.

You might be surprised to know that your employee performance appraisal process can hold a key. You see, most organizations include a competency section on their performance appraisal form. Managers are asked to rate their employees’ performance of core and sometimes job specific competencies, and put development plans in place to address skill gaps. But ask yourself: Are you assessing and developing the right competencies?

Here’s how to use your employee performance appraisal process to develop the competencies that lead to success.

First, don’t just use a canned set of competencies to evaluate your sales team’s performance. Instead, look at your star performers… What makes them successful in your industry and with your customers? What are the qualities, skills and behaviors that give them the edge when it comes to sales? Is it their listening skills? Is it their ability to research companies and prospects to get the background info they need to build rapport and identify needs? Is it their presentation skills, communication skills, persuasion skills, or technical knowledge? Every market and customer set is unique, and may require slightly different sales skills. You need to identify and clearly define the competencies that are demonstrably leading to success in your sales team.

Next, come up with clear definitions for those competencies. What do great, average and poor performance of these competencies look like? Document examples of how these key competencies are used and when they’re important. You’ll need more than a competency name and one sentence description. Provide enough detail so that your sales staff clearly understand the competency and what the various levels of proficiency in it look like. It can be helpful to do this exercise with a small team, and then have your descriptions reviewed by a few members of your sales staff to ensure your descriptions are clear and informative. Your goal is to clearly define and describe the competencies that underpin success.

Then, figure out what training and development activities can help develop these competencies. What book, articles, blogs, conferences or courses zero in on them? Build a list. Make sure you include a variety of learning activities that appeal to various learning styles so there’s something for everyone.

Finally, use these custom defined competencies on your sales team’s performance appraisal forms and regularly evaluate each sales person’s demonstration of them. Where skill gaps are identified, use the learning activities you’ve identified to create development plans for employees. Give your employees ongoing feedback and coach their performance. Track everyone’s progress and performance. Look for improvements in performance to validate the effectiveness of development activities and revise your list as required. Slowly but surely, you’ll build individual and organizational bench-strength in the competencies you’ve identified as critical to your sales team.

By identifying the competencies that contribute to your star performers’ success and using your performance appraisal process to systematically cultivate these in your entire sales staff, you can raise the performance level of your entire sales team.

Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software.. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen Software blog.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Guest Article: “Identify and Develop the Competencies th&#9… […]

    Pingback by John In The Jordan [Accompaniment/Performance Track] - Southern Gospel — May 19, 2011 @ 3:34 pm | Reply


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