Not many people would set off on a challenging journey without a map for everyone to follow, yet many business leaders do exactly that when they are looking to scale their sales.

As we all know, a map ensures that everyone knows their final destination, it gives you guidance on what you need to do to get there and shows you your progress at any given point in time.

It is a consistent tool for everyone and yet the information it provides is specific to each individual.

In sales, a competency framework is that map and, coupled with sales coaching, it has not only been proven to have the single biggest impact on your sales performance but can also shape personal development, job satisfaction, and employee retention.

So what is a sales competency framework and how do I get one? 

A competency framework, also known as a skills matrix or development framework, sets out the skills, attitudes and behaviours needed for your sales reps to perform at their best and therefore generate the best results for the business.

There are several ways to start to develop a framework for your own organisation.

You could consider the current best performers in your team – how does the lone wolf that consistently brings in the money differ from the team-player that everyone looks up to and regularly coaches and adds positivity to the team?

The skills and behaviours that you value in each of them are the starting point for your competency framework.

‘Why my daughter will be getting a job for her 16th birthday’

Alternatively, you can look at your KPIs and leading indicators of success and work backwards to identify which skills and behaviours drive and influence each one.

Whichever approach you take, this will give you the basis of your sales competency framework.

Once you have identified your core competencies, it is important to include your definition of what that behaviour or skill means to you. It might seem obvious, but each person is likely to have a different view and that will not give us the consistency we need (more on that later!).

You also need to consider what good looks like for each competency in each role and at each level, for example good problem discovery for a sales rep with two years’ experience will be very different than for someone with two months’ experience.

Consistency is key

In order to scale efficiently, you need to be consistent and repeatable. Everyone should be pretty much on the same path – different styles should be embraced, some may walk, some may run, some may stop for lunch, but the same path is taken none-the-less.

Your competency ‘map’ needs to become your common language, the common path across multiple programs:

  • All training should be built and delivered around it.
  • Knowledge should be indexed and shared around it.
  • Reviews and QBRs should use it as the backbone.
  • Every sales manager should run their 1-2-1s around it.
  • Coaching should be driven around it.

This link back to a common framework makes it much easier to build into the operating rhythm of sales which in turn, makes it more scalable and faster to adopt.

Align it with your metrics

To create even further consistency, align your KPIs (leading and lagging) to the skills and behaviours that drive them.

For example the conversion of meetings to opportunities may be aligned with problem discovery and solution positioning. Call to meeting ratios might be aligned to ‘prospect qualification’ and ‘conversation quality’ and so on.

Instantly you are now able to know that when a rep is struggling to create pipeline, you need to coach and develop their problem discovery skills. And, as you grow, it’s not only you that is able to follow this path, it’s consistent for every manager and every rep, wherever they might be.

‘You can’t manage what you don’t measure’

The fact that you have aligned your sales competency framework to everything you measure also means that you can now also measure the effectiveness of your sales coaching and training.

A sales training budget is valuable and therefore it is important to know that you are spending it on the right areas and also be able to objectively determine if the resource or session in question had the desired impact.

Firstly, a skills gap analysis can now be done at an individual, team or organisation level to allow you to pinpoint the right areas to focus on that will make a real difference to performance.

Once you have used the data to identify the training needed, you will then be able see if the reps that attended the problem discovery training are showing subsequent progress in this area.  This will not only help to inform your future training activity but will also help to make your often scarce budget more effective.

Make it accessible

For businesses that already understand the power of a competency framework and coaching, nine times out of 10 it comes with a severe admin headache.  To get the information necessary, it often requires a CRM to be open alongside a printed or excel copy of the competency matrix and then 1-2-1s are then updated on a Word document.

The bottom line is if something requires additional admin or onerous processes to achieve then it is NOT scalable and is unlikely to be adopted, therefore rendering it a complete waste of time.

Instead, present the information in an actionable format, already interpreted and guiding them towards the focus areas. This ups the consistency and scalability ante significantly.

There are not many single changes you can make in a business that can have a transformative effect but the introduction of a sales competency framework and coaching to that framework is one of them. Get started on your journey (don’t forget your map!) and you won’t be disappointed.