Seven Steps to Sales Competencies

If the talent of your sales organisation follows the usual distribution curve you will have a few star performers, a few poor performers and the majority there or there about occupying the middle ground.

What if you could shift the curve towards the top performers? Think what a difference it would make if a sizable majority; perhaps even half of your sales people were achieving their stretch targets?

A tool that can have a significant impact on achieving that pleasant position is sales competencies. Any job can be ‘unpacked’ into its constituent parts, what you might term the success drivers. These are competencies.

A competency is an amalgam of skills, experience, knowledge and mind-set. Identifying what those are creates a real sense of direction for personal development, training, coaching, performance management and succession planning.


How do you establish what are the required competencies for your sales organisation?

  1. Firstly collect all the existing data that will help inform competence development: Job descriptions, role profiles, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), success/failure criteria etc.
  2. Complete a role review covering all standards of performance
  3. Model exemplar performance, activities and behaviours
  4. Codify findings into a competency framework
  5. Include descriptors and behavioural indicators
  6. Test for relevancy
  7. Use to inform recruitment, promotion, performance management, role development and coaching

The Ten Blockages to Learning at Work

Over the last thirty years colleagues have been frustrated at organisations not supporting their employees in learning, managers who feel training their people is a waste of money and individuals who believe that attending training or having coaching is a waste of their time.

It’s not surprising to hear that people complain about other people not seeing how important their job and the service they offer are.  What we did find surprising, looking back over a third of a century of comments from scores of trainers about hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals was just how consistent they were over time.

We had a look at the comments and grouped them into ten clear themes of why people don’t want to invest time, money and head-space into learning at work.  Which of these apply to you, your teams and your organisation?


Perpetual                              *not seeing there is a problem

Cultural                                  *the way things are here….

Emotional                             *fear or insecurity

Motivational                          *unwillingness to take the risk

Cognitive                               *poor previous learning experience

Intellectual                            *limited learning styles

Expressive                            *poor communication skills

Situational                             *lack of opportunities

Physical                                *wrong place, time

Specific environment          *boss/colleagues unsupportive


What truths do you think would resonate across the decades in your industry and workplace?


Scary Sales Stories for the Campfire

Want to hear about scary sales people?  Step this way…

  • The sales guy who was spotted asleep at the wheel of his car outside a major customer (missing his appointment) with a copy of Covey’s 7 Habits shielding his face from the sun.
  • The sales guy who couldn’t be bothered to attend the Power of Positive Thinking course.
  • The sales guy who always wondered what autodidactic means?
  • The sales manager who surprised his team with a (and we’re quoting) ‘fantastic motivational bonus’ in this month’s pay packet.
  • A sales director telling her manager to be more consultative.
  • A CEO stating women make great salespeople because they can ‘use special techniques with male buyers’.
  • Two salespeople from different divisions of the same company turning up to see the same customer in ignorance of the others plans? Their meeting in reception that descended into a public row has become a talking point with their customer’s procurement team.
  • The sales director ordering new iPhone 7’s for everyone but being the only one with an iPhone 7 Plus
  • A director saying they wouldn’t be taking a pay rise, getting lots of plaudits, and then quietly and confidentially accepting one when group mandated it should be taken.
  • A very bright person attending a workshop on taking ownership for contributing to sales change and saying (without irony) when leaving the programme, ‘A good day, but we’ll see what happens’.
  • A large number of sales organisations paying a single bonus for achieving the budgeted numbers and wondering why salespeople don’t ‘punch through’ them and go after even higher numbers.
  • A sales manager going customer visiting with a team member, and asking to be picked up at the airport at 10:30 and needing to be back for their flight at  15:30. Their quarter’s performance improvement theme was, you guessed it, productivity.


If you would like to share your howlers go ahead and ass a comment.

Six Essential Requirements Of Real-Time Sales Management Information

Knowing more than your customers, before your customers, in a joined up way is now a business given. Below are the primary data sets any self respecting sales organisation should have a handle on:


Customer Data
The holy grail. A 360° view of what they are bought, buying, and thinking of buying by product/service line, cross referenced by contact, decision making authority and location(s).

Forecasting Data
What might happen and when, filtered through a probability analysis, with some kind of retro capability to test for subsequent accuracy.

Results Data
The most commonly available data set. What seems harder to do is the timeliness; single digit dates the following month are impressive, 10-20s OK 20-31 iffy, and the following month hopeless. Also do they reflect the reality that sales people recognise? If they cannot see the cause and effect connections of what they spend their time working on, their ownership for the numbers will plummet.

Sales Pipeline Data
The incubator of future business. The ability to map the journey of business, showing blockages and flows, through the pipeline, will give any business a real edge in optimising its resources.

Activity Data
Can you track key gateway ratios proposals to orders for instance? These figures are the portal to performance insight. Managers who can perceptively interpret these figures are at the apex of their profession. Salespeople should be the custodians of their own data including the aggregated form. It’s not a management stick but a salespersons sword.

Lead Generation Data
The data that feeds the business engine. Tracking these early indicators shows where the business is coming from and what has the most/least potential.

The Quick And Dirty Way To Lean

Lean as a management tool is based on a simple to say, more difficult to do set of four principles;


  1. Create nothing but value adding processes (eliminate waste)
  2. Centre design around the people who add the value
  3. Flow value creation around demand (delay resource commitment)
  4.  Optimise across organisational boundaries, structures, etc

Lean is about looking at the whole system of production, but it still has valid applications to service businesses. Any organisation who has asked customers to complete on-line orders connected to their order management system has been thinking Lean. Lean obsesses about the identification, removal or reclassification of waste. If anything is checked there is a waste process and waste labour involved. The same if anything is done twice. There is always time to put things right but never enough to do them right to begin with. Every time a phone call is transferred, waste is present, doing things right first time is the objective of Lean.

What is also interesting is that Lean organisations have a particular approach to how they organise their people. Lean People – the ones that (can) add value by being at the centre of:

  • Information flows
  • Resource allocation decisions
  • Process design authority
  • Decision making authority


What we have found is that a relatively small number of people, often managers but not always, are responsible for what we call the Organisational Energy, the people who make change happen. Undeveloped they usually number less than 15% of the workforce which creates bottlenecks and large areas of poor practice. If this figure can be moved above 25% we find a kind of tipping point is reached and organisational change in general, and new approaches like Lean in particular, can become sustainably activated and permanently embedded.