Sales Skill Development—Major “on the Majors” and See Great Results

Sales Skill Development—Major ”on the Majors” and See Great Results

Whether you have a highly skilled and effective sales force or not, “continual learning and constant improvement” should be your mantra. Sales is no “Lake Wobegone” (where everyone’s above average)—every sales executive, and every sales manager, has some developmental need. With limited time and resources the salient question is: what’s the most productive way to assess needs both on an individual and group level, and then get the right training in place?

There are several ways that firms often assess skill level of sales execs and where they may need help. These include manager assessment of the sales exec, manager with some sales exec input (typically as deals are happening or as part of a specific deal post mortem) or survey feedback from clients as part of a formal sales training course. And then there is the annual performance review, but hopefully no sales manager is sharing assessments that infrequently!

All of these approaches are valuable, but to get a very quick assessment that’s extremely accurate, we recommend using a sales skill development checklist with various stakeholders. A good sales skill development checklist provides an exhaustive list of all aspects of selling, and enables respondents to quickly register a “gut reaction” to a skill level. It also engenders more effective manager–employee communication by promoting “real-time” feedback and discussion about current needs. This allows for someone to get help before he finds himself far behind quota or worse—on probation or quitting.

The Collaborative reviews 32 areas of sales skill that are crucial to sales success. Not all are used in every situation; 15 to 20 areas will typically be surveyed. As an example, following are five areas and the descriptions of each, to which a respondent would rate the sales exec:

Skill Definition
Advancing & Closing the Sale Gaining commitment from prospects to perform their buying actions in a timely manner and persuading prospects to approve paperwork and make their initial payment
Negotiation Effectively reaching outcomes that gain the acceptance of key stakeholders.
Buy Cycle Management Identifying actions prospects plan to take in order to purchase. Advising prospects on more effective actions and leading them to take those actions
Sales Cycle Management Leading team members to manage the selling process in a manner that keeps prospects moving toward the next step in the sales cycle in the least amount of time.
Communication Expressing ideas effectively and matching communication styles to the needs of the audience

The manager, sales exec and internal stakeholders then rate the sales exec on a four-point scales as follows: 4—Most important to focus on, big developmental need; 3—Some obstacles encountered, interested in learning/exec should learn more; 2—Some needs, but low priority; 1—No problems, no needs now. A similar scale of “Very high need”, “High need”, “Some need”, “Little/no need” is used on the checklist sent to prospects or customers.

Our experience is that most parties will be honest with this approach and very willing to participate because the time commitment is short. We also find that the highest priority areas are very consistent across all respondent groups and so allows the firm to gain agreement on what’s important. As a result, you and your sales execs can quickly determine the training that’s most needed, put it in place, and start reaping the rewards!