Going Back to the Basics – Even the Pro’s Forget the Basics
The only time that’s more ideal than right now to focus on basic core competencies is yesterday. Professional athletes practice during the off-season, going back to basics so they can stay sharp and competitive. The bad news? Sales professionals don’t have an off-season. The good news? You can keep your team improving all year round.
Before you invest in a training program for yourself or your team, assess the situation. Sales executives are evaluated on basics that we call “The Five Sales Competencies”:
- Product Knowledge: Goods or services being sold
- Selling Skills: Sales cycle control, qualifying, value creation, the basics of selling
- Communication Ability: Behavior profiling, neuro-linguistic programming, effective listening, negotiating, etc.
- Presentation Finesse: By phone, in person, and group meetings
- Personal Growth: Confidence, learning, and continued interest in growing
If you are a sales manager, you should immediately assess the field. On a scale from 1 to 10, where do each of your sales executives fall in each of these five core areas? If you don’t know, test them by scheduling a one on one mock sales call. Make sure you ask the appropriate questions so you can accurately evaluate their skillset. Usually we find the number slides depending on how long an executive has been with the company, the tendency to lean more on one core competency because it comes more naturally, etc. A professional and successful sales person doesn’t have to be a 10 on all 5, but you will see a definite pattern emerge from your brightest stars, and vice versa.
If you’re a sales executive wondering how you rank, ask your manager to listen in to a couple of sales calls and evaluate you on the five core competencies listed above. They will know you are eager to grow, and should be more than willing to lend an attentive ear.
Ready… Set… Start Training
Once you’ve established your overall team grade, it is critical to allot time to allow for training to bring the team up to a higher level. Imagine a professional baseball team where only 3 of the 9 players practiced consistently. The results would be predictable, and not in a good way.
In baseball, you have your coaches, players, and equipment. The coaches provide you with your vision and strategy for winning, similar to the selling, presentation, and communication skills listed above. The bats and other equipment provides power to the play, similar to what product knowledge provides to a sales person. Finally, the players hold it all together. Without players, there is no game. This is your sales culture, which can be influenced by team building events, personal growth courses, and other programs.
Review the individual and overall grades for your team and compare it to where you want to be in the next 6-12 months. Which area needs the greatest help? Is there a recurring theme that you can focus on, such as increasing product knowledge, or do you have a competency mixture that requires a custom training program? Either way, you’ll want to put a training plan in place to fully arm your team for the competitive edge.
Sales training on the Five Core Competencies comes with the gift of being decisive. You can really only do one of three things when it comes to being a ProActive sales manager or executive:
- Invest in a consistent methodology of training and engage daily for 30-90 days with a plan for the next 6-12 months.
- No budget? Fake it. Buy books for the sales team. Cover a chapter per week. Start weekly sales meetings by having one salesperson own a topic and teach the team. Quiz yourself or your team to evaluate the growth. Do whatever it takes to help your team have fun and become stronger and smarter – together.
- Find another opportunity. Let’s face it. Your players determine whether you win or lose. If you are going up to bat with a team that is ill-prepared and not invested in, you are already at a loss. Your results will be predictable, and you will be unhappy.
As in all lessons in life, you’ll get what you focus on. Lead by example and model the way by making sure you are ProActive in your own growth and learning. Your team will see that you are investing in yourself, and investing in them, and will emulate your behavior.
Learn more about core competencies and sales management tools in ProActive Sales Management by Skip Miller.