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How to Recognize Your ‘True’ Sales Performance Competencies

“Run your Numbers…don’t chase after Quota” Let’s first define what we mean by a “core competency.”  We will then introduce the 3 Core Competencies, and spend our time understanding how they can ...

“Run your Numbers…don’t chase after Quota”

Let’s first define what we mean by a “core competency.”  We will then introduce the 3 Core Competencies, and spend our time understanding how they can dramatically increase your success.

The term Core Competencies refers to those essential elements in the sales process that most directly impact your success.  These elements are controllable and measurable, and sales professionals can be trained to be proficient in these areas.  Unfortunately, many sales organizations and individuals lose focus – distracted by peripheral activities or sophisticated systems that track dozens of different activities when only a handful really matters.

Without a foundation built upon these essential elements or Core Competencies, and because of all the distractions and roadblocks an organization is susceptible to today, results can be mediocre or less.

Take a look at the following list of items that are prevalent in the sales cycle, and select the items that you believe are absolutely essential to your success. 

-          Closing Sales

-          Developing Prospect Lists

-          Setting Appointments

-          Running 1st Appointments

-          Working Qualified Prospects through the Sales Pipeline

-          Post-Sale Marketing

-          Developing Referrals

-          Reporting and Paperwork

-          Documenting Testimonials

Many of these tasks are important, but they are not all sales performance competencies.  Yes, it is important and useful to ask for referrals and develop testimonials from satisfied customers, but your success hinges mostly on the mastery of – and attention to – the Core sales Competencies.

One simple way to determine whether an activity, routine or task is truly a core sales competency is to ask what activities are directly linked to revenue. 

After all, revenue is how we sales people measure success.  That’s our scorecard at the end of the month.

We can do that through a series of questions listed below.

Is it an essential component to the sales mission or is it just an ingredient in the recipe?  

Separate necessary tasks in your sales day from key competencies.

Consider a golfer’s essential competencies from tee-off to last putt.  Is the core competency the ball – or the club?  Or is it the golf swing and putting stroke?

As an example, Prospecting for new business is a necessary sales system to put in place for routine success.  Within your Prospecting system are individual components for lead generation; things like customer referral programs, vendor collaboration programs, affinity programs, target information seminars and association programs.  These are not authentic sales competencies but tactical vehicles for lead generation.

The actual sales competency is the ‘Act of communicating the Business Reason to Meet’ once you are given the opportunity to have a face-to-face or telephone conversation with your intended target prospect.

And the measurement of that competency, or key performance indicator, is the ‘Conversation-to-appointment’ ratio; how many times you ask for the business appointment versus how many times you achieve it.

Can it be measured routinely and accurately with a napkin, pencil, and calculator?

Just as measuring your ‘Conversation-to-appointment’ ratio; how many times you ask for the business appointment versus how many times you achieve it, your first appointment to proposal ration is a key performance indicator which make it also an essential sales performance competency, because the objective of your first appointment is advancing your sales process to the next step.  That might be a demonstration, a site visit, a survey or a proposal.

The degree that you perform your 1st appointment sales process to achieve your ‘Next Step’ objective is measurable and will give you diagnostic feedback to your competency level parallel to your 1st appointment methodology and process.

Can you set a realistic performance benchmark tied to revenue goals? 

Let’s say you have diagnosed your sales performance competencies as converting target prospect conversations to appointments, converting 1st appointments to the ‘next step’ in your sales process and then closing the business from there.  So that’s (3) sales performance competencies; Conversation-to-appointment ratio, 1st appointment to proposal ratio and closing ratio.

How would you go about setting realistic performance benchmarks that the team can aspire to and measure themselves against?

To do so you need (3) more sales performance numbers; your average revenue per sale, your monthly revenue objective and your weekly activity number.  Your weekly activity number is a derivative of your (3) sales performance competencies and your average revenue per sale parallel to your monthly revenue objective.

Here’s an example of a sales manager in the document management industry.  Her team’s average revenue per sale is $3400.  She calculates she needs to maintain a 1st appointment to proposal ratio of 65%.  The closing ratio is set at 40%.  Their individual monthly revenue goal is $25,000. 

The derivative of these performance numbers is a weekly activity goal of (7) new appointments per rep, on average. 

Next is the reality check.  Are these performance numbers realistic to meet?  Do they have the necessary skill-set and supporting tools to meet all the benchmarks and achieve the performance ratios and activity goal? 

If not, what adjustments are needed in line with the benchmarks and what training is needed to achieve them?

Can you apply “Pin-point Training” and “Powerful Routines” around each core competency? 

We know what training is, but do we understand why training fails?  Timely training is NOT a seminar or one-time event.  It requires appropriate structures for learning and application, defining useful short-term objectives, measuring progress, working closely with qualified trainers for follow-up and support, and most importantly, organizational commitment from the ‘Top’ down.

‘Timely training’ is focused on one sales performance competency at a time until the appropriate benchmark of performance is realized.

So if you can say it is directly tied to revenue (or your end result), is a skill set that can be trained to for improvement, and can be easily measured, it is a Sales Performance Competency.

Perhaps a golf analogy will help illustrate the power of the Business of Core Competencies.  A self-professed “poor” golfer with a chronic slice might attempt to correct the problem by adjusting his stance – actually aiming away from the fairway so that the slice hopefully lands the ball in the middle. 

In contrast, a low handicap golfer with a persistent slice might address the problem by adjusting their grip, rotating their hips, or the adjusting the arc of their swing.  In other words, the good golfers address the core competencies of the swing vs. adjusting peripheral elements. 

Off the golf course, in the sales arena, the opportunity for you is to identify, train to and measure sales performance competencies and performance metricsScience Articles, and not just chase after quota.

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Jeff Hardesty is president of JDH Group Inc., a sales performance training company based in Powell, Ohio. He can be reached at

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