- Planning skills: account planning and opportunity identification
- Opportunity initiation skills: prospecting and account penetration
- Sales call skills: solution development and qualification
- Sell cycle skills: sell cycle management and control
- Closing skills: negotiating and closing.
Most importantly, we’ve found that of these above skills, the average sales person is typically deficient in only one or two which hold them back from “eagle” performance. And if sales managers follow the systematic approach afforded to them by SMS, they can successfully unlock the potential of a salesperson in only one quarter. To accomplish this, a sales manager needs only to grade sellers in each skill, and then follow the appropriate plan that focuses on the ones that are holding them back.
To grade the capability level of sellers, managers need a well-defined, objective set of metric-based criteria for each skill. Such a tool for the skill of Sales Call Qualification is shown below:
Then the sales manager can use these tools to summarize the performance level of a seller for every skill in a tool called the Skill Analyzer™:
It typically requires only 10 minutes to complete such an analysis.
So now it’s time to focus on skill development. Over the years, we have found that a manager’s best approach is to focus on developing one skill per quarter. Any more than that is too challenging and time-consuming for both the seller and the sales manager; it defocuses their efforts, and produces diminishing returns. However, if the seller and the sales manager proactively focus on the seller’s biggest deficiency, it yields extraordinary results. In the case above, the skill to focus on is Sales Call Qualification because this is where the seller is weakest.
And that leads us to a skill development plan for Sales Call Qualification, as shown in the figure below. Its purpose is to define a plan that requires the seller to leverage the components of the sales methodology that they have been trained in, and to practice relevant components with their sales manager. It also sets a target goal that the seller is expected to achieve by end of one quarter, as well as identifies the metric that should be tracked as a gauge of Capability Level success.
Also note that the items in the plan are based on a collaboration between the sales manager and seller, and includes role-plays and reviewing sell cycle control letters on the part of the manager.
As a result, sales managers should see dramatic, rapid, metric-based performance improvement in the skill that had held a seller back from peak performance. It is very common for sellers to progress from Capability Level 1 to Level 3 for a given skill in only one quarter!