Sales Competencies: the Core of Salesforce Effectiveness

July 11, 2019 Lorenz Berg

First published on LinkedIn

Any salesforce effectiveness strategy is built on an understanding of the organization’s business strategy, knowing who the target customers are and having a clear value proposition for them. From that, a value proposition can be developed, and a sales organization designed that best serves the customer.

For me, these are the basic building blocks to have in place before embarking on a salesforce effectiveness project. The next step is to define the sales competencies needed as, without these, it is hard for HR to make the connection to the business strategy and to know who to hire and what to develop.

We have been working with a number of organizations as they tackle their own salesforce effectiveness projects.

One of our clients, Olympus, took the decision to revisit its commercial approach. It was an all-encompassing review including a rethink of its sales model. As a company, Olympus had recognized that the world of sales was a very different place to that of yesteryear. Its customers now operated differently, in a more centralized manner and across territories and wanted to make sure its salespeople reflected this. But this was not just about internal structure and sales organization, it needed to work out which behaviors, attitudes and competencies would lead to success going forward.

The Olympus team followed a tried and tested four-step approach that brings together the internal knowledge and experience and helps with buy in, and then works out how these behaviors can be spotted in candidates applying for a role. Defining such competencies also guide the learning and development of current salespeople and give extra information to those thinking of career moves.

Step 1 - Find out what leads to sales success in your business – define what ‘good looks like.

Seek out internal subject matter experts. Run internal focus groups and carry out sales leader interviews. Such activities help to clarify not only which behaviors and approaches work and don’t work for the organization, but also how these behaviors differ from other companies. Define a success profile by articulating the behaviors, attitudes, motivations and skills needed by your salespeople.

Step 2 – Decide how to measure the characteristics, choose the assessments and design an assessment process.

Not all characteristics can be assessed through online assessment so decide how you will measure the presence of a specific skill during the hiring process. This is where we can really add value. We know how to measure behaviors and can help design a specific assessment process. It means you can focus on the best applicants early on and gather high quality information which can be used later in the selection process.

Step 3 – Implement the assessment process.

Implementing any change has its challenges – especially when moving from a regionalized to a more centralized approach – and resistance is normal. Communication and buy-in are crucial. Involve stakeholders and opinion leaders right from the start. In my experience, organizations often underestimate the time this takes, and the investment needed in win people over. A one-off, kick-off event is not enough; communication has to be on-going. Change can be a tough ride!

Step 4 – Track the change and monitor the results.

With a newly defined assessment process in place, the work is not over. You need to monitor its success regarding who the accuracy of who is being highlighted as great candidates. If you go on to hire them, do they then go on and perform well? Performance metrics will help here so a study can be set up to track and correlate and again, this is how we help clients. Finally, don’t forget to share the success with the business of the new approach. Often, overlooked, with an impact study carried out, you will be able to show the business the change has made.

For Olympus, the team has been able to redefine the salesperson they want to hire and design an assessment process that identifies those candidates who will take the Olympus sales approach forward. And the feedback – and results – have been good.

  • A stronger match between the salesperson and the role. Hiring managers report a stronger fit between the new hires and what the business needs going forward.
  • Reduced dropouts. There has been a significant decrease in the number of new hires leaving Olympus in the first few months.
  • An increase in on-the-job performance ratings of new hires. No new hire received a low performance rating.
  • Positive feedback from candidates. Candidates appreciate the feedback given by Olympus on their assessment results.
  • More informative interviews. Hiring managers are now able to carry out more structured, informative and relevant second interviews as they access the information gained from the assessment earlier in the hiring process.

Read more about how Olympus approached its project and the results it has achieved.

Watch this two-minute video to hear the thoughts of Constanze Wiedemann, Manager of HR Development at Olympus on the project.

About the Author

Lorenz Berg

Lorenz Berg arbeitet seit 2016 bei Aon's Assessment Solutions und ist in seiner Rolle als Head of Consulting Germany verantwortlich für die Gestaltung und Implementierung von großen, internationalen Assessment-Projekten. Seit 2019 führt er das deutsche Beraterteam mit sieben Consultants an. Er ist Mitglied im Forum Assessment und tritt als Key Note Speaker auf verschiedenen Events auf. Lorenz Berg hat einen Bachelorabschluss in Business Administration sowie Bachelor- und Masterabschlüsse in Psychologie. Abgerundet wird sein Profil durch Zertifizierungen in der systemischen Organisationsentwicklung sowie im systemischen Coaching.

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