People enter the sales field from a variety of sources. Some come straight from college or other schools, some from the technical field, some from other lines of career development (manufacturing, field service) and some from the field of education. In actuality, they come from everywhere.
The challenge facing an organization is how to improve those sales competencies that contribute directly to improved sales performance. An assessment tool like STAR identifies core competencies and the degree of proficiency of each that is possessed by the salesperson.
Historically, an organization, as well as the staff, could count on long-term careers which allowed time and training. Now global competition, the reduced amount of time spent in one job in one company and the rapidly changing composition of the work force all mitigate against long-term employee training and development efforts.
Our research has shown that many people have competencies and do not always use them. Many jobs require competencies that their incumbents do not possess. The challenge facing the training function and sales management is how to close these two gaps.
Organizations need to integrate their various human resource and management systems with the development of those abilities deemed essential for sales performance. A plan outlining what each person needs to do to improve in each competency category is the basis for all future growth and development.
It is far easier to comprehend the technical, capital and physical assets that are required for business success. The people capabilities are not as easy to define. The effort needs to start with a clear definition of each required competency and an awareness of its various levels of proficiency. From this basis a program of improvement can be structured, delivered and monitored by the sales management staff and the training department. The supporting programs, policies, procedures, rewards and motivations need to be put in place. All levels of management need to lend their endorsement to the efforts.
Personal Development Programs
Under this competency-based improvement program, the organization must create their specific training programs and personal development activities of all its salespeople. Sales management must allocate the time and resources required by all those who are improving their sales competencies. Rather than exclusively controlling people costs, the organization needs to evaluate the people-skill return it receives from these expenditures.
A competency development system requires that each and every training and improvement activity be able to answer this question: What will be the specific contribution to the improvement of sales performance from each of these activities? The training activities must be based upon a thorough needs analysis, continuous evaluations, constant feedback and measurement of the results.