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Exploring Role-specific Sales Skills & Competencies

Sales performance improvement

role specific competencies in sales

Ken Cross, Director of Sales Enablement SolutionsApril 15, 2022Blog

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Unique Sales Roles Demand Unique Selling Skills

There is a certain meme that always seems to float around the web when leading up to tax season here in the US. It says something like: “I’m glad I learned about parallelograms instead of how to do my taxes. It’s really come in handy this parallelogram season.” While I will resist the urge to explain and thereby ruin this joke, there just might be something to it, after all.

From an educational perspective, sure, we can agree that teaching children about things they will not actually use every day has purpose (usually grounded in the need to teach children to think critically), but even so, there is equally great value in teaching learners’ subjects that are directly relevant to their day-to-day lives.

Within many sales organizations, it is an all-too-common scenario to see companies pour money into training programs that are, to be frank, out of alignment with the day-to-day needs of their sales organization, based on their specific roles.

What is required for one sales role may be very different from another. For example, often, sellers are put into buckets such as “hunters” (business development) versus “farmers” (account executives). While there is a common set of skills, knowledge, and abilities that are required for each role to be successful, for example, the ability to be conversational, adaptable, and apply critical thinking, there is also a divergence when it comes to really digging into what is required to be successful in one role versus the other. This way of operating has led to the emergence of Role Specific Competencies.

A Model for Building Role-based Sales Competencies

Put simply, a sales competency can be viewed as a combination of knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors that a given seller needs in order to succeed in their sales role.

Note the inclusion of behaviors as a critical element to the definition of a competency – it is just not enough for a seller to have the knowledge, but they need to be able to demonstrate and execute the competency, daily.

To this end, competencies are often reflected as a role-based learning journey that sellers move through:

  • Learn: learners engage in training to lead the concept and gain foundation knowledge
  • Practice: learners take a learned concept and practice it, consistently, in simulated selling scenarios
  • Apply: learners demonstrate the real-world application of the learned concept
  • Coach: learners receive coaching and ongoing development

When developing a competency model, it is important that competencies have names that are very clearly aligned with the associated knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors contained within.

Sample Competencies by Sales Role

Let’s explore a couple of common sales roles with examples of associated competencies aligned with each role (of note, this serves as an example and does not include all possible competencies associated with each of the below roles) -

Outbound Lead Generation Specialist:

The responsibilities of an outbound lead generation specialist are to focus, often, on cold calling to generate leads within a specific territory, vertical, or solution set. Competencies of focus for this role may include:

  • Accessing Decision Makers
  • Competitive Selling
  • Consultative Sales Conversations
  • Objection Handling
  • Opportunity Qualification
  • Pain / Problem / Need Identification

Enterprise Sales:

In most organizations, the Enterprise Sales reps in your organization may be those responsible for identifying and executing on the most complex sales opportunities, often with a focus on larger and more strategic clients. Competencies of focus for this role may include:

  • Accessing Decision Makers
  • Consultative Sales Conversations
  • Negotiating
  • Opportunity Pre-Call Planning
  • Opportunity Qualification
  • Pain / Problem / Need Identification
  • Risk Management
  • Value Creation

Within the list above, you will note the significant overlap, although, some learners may need to have levels of required competency achievement levels, for a given competency. This list provides a general overview of two types of sales roles, for a more detailed description of the competencies each sales role in your organization needs to succeed click here.

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Building Role Specific Competencies in Sales

While there are many ways to define your organization’s sales competency model, we recommend several best practices to get started:

  1. Document your ideal sales profile, based on what good looks like, for a specific sales role.
  2. Collaborate as a team, to ensure that the model is not built in a silo, but instead involves leadership, sales, and HR
  3. Align competencies to support your organization’s strategy, to ensure that competencies will support your organization in achieving your goals and objectives
  4. Keep it simple, so that your sellers will have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, for a given role
  5. Improve each competency with focused training that enables learners to experience how the competency is related to their role

By developing a sales competency model, you can drive focused sales performance, by role, and ensure that your training investments are focused on what matters to each sales role within the organization.

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