The Myths of Salesperson Competency
If you stop any sales person on the street and ask them if they are
good at what they do, chances are, they will all say "yes!" But ask
their manager, marketing department, customer service area, human
resources department (or any other function of the firm), and
chances are the answer is "no." The difference in defining sales
competence is a matter of perspective.
Compounding the problem are two myths regarding measures of
competency in sales.
Myth#1: Quota performance does not equate to sales
competency - A salesperson's quota is usually determined by
management. More often than not, the quota is set as a way to
attain a goal of an increased share price or its just pulled out of
the air as a "nice-to-have-number" that is bigger than last year.
It's a rare organization that can articulate how a quota was set.
It's even rarer to find an organization that sits down to do the
sales math and determine the realistic quota and stretch quota for
their salespeople. Without this understanding, how do you know if
the quota is too high? How do you know if it is too low? You don't!
Therefore the salesperson that hits quota in an organization that
doesn't know how to set one is not proving his or her competence.
Myth#2: Activity level does not equate to sales
competency - Many organizations set sales activity goals. They will
ask their salespeople to accomplish X sales calls, X phone calls,
and X proposals a day. These types of measurements, and constantly
hitting them, do not mean the person can sell. Sure, there is a
positive correlation between activity and selling, but if I play
the lottery every single day I probably won't win. If I play X
lottery games, in X states, and with X amount of money, it doesn't
mean I'm driving towards a win. It simply means I'm increasing my
chances. I'd rather have someone that knows exactly what they are
doing and not playing the lottery with their sales territory.
So what exactly is sales competency? Competence is defined as
someone's knowledge, skill and internal motivation. Knowledge is
the building block of competence. Effective sales professionals are
continuously learning and they have developed a framework and
process for accessing their knowledge. They have a solid knowledge
foundation and they understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Skill is determined by the knowledge a salesperson has gained plus
their experience level. The most skilled sales professionals have
stayed in one vertical market or industry for a longer period of
time. They have also stayed in the same sales role for a longer
length of time (such as outside sales). They have also followed a
defined career path with increasing levels of responsibility and
complexity of sale. Internal motivation is someone's self talk,
drive, and purpose. Their passion for the product, zeal for the
organization where they work, and their positive attitude form the
cornerstone for the ability to overcome objections, handle
rejection, or deal with poorly set sales quotas.
A competent sales person has the ability to move into any
organization and gain the trust of the decision-makers. They work
to create a situation where buying can occur within an ethical
environment at a fair price. They have the knowledge to speak to a
CEO, the front-line manager, or the newest employee about what
issues and challenges they face. Most of all they strive to
increase their knowledge, skill, and motivation so they can be the
best at what they do.