This article originally appeared on ATD’s blog in August 2020. We enjoyed it so much that we thought we’d share it on our blog, too. Enjoy!
Sales is a highly measurable role where the numbers shine like a spotlight throughout the organization. When we create repeatability in the process and performance, we can help drive the results that lead success.
And, while these numbers seem easy to measure, there’s plenty of data to look at but it doesn’t always tell the full story for each and every sales rep. So, how can you keep track of your salesforce’s skill level and overall performance? Let’s take a look.
Build a Skills Matrix
Before you can get a clear picture of how your reps are performing, it’s important to decide what it means for a rep to be truly successful. What skills and competencies do they need to grasp? What knowledge do they need to reach identified goals?
This is where a skills matrix comes in handy. A skills matrix identifies the skills that reps need in their roles and creates a foundation for your entire sales enablement program. From there, you’ll be able to easily create an employee training record and training plan for each rep to ensure they complete the necessary training for each skill you list.
When it comes to creating your skills and training matrix, there are a few helpful things to remember. First, you’ll likely have to build this from scratch with the collaboration of your partners across the sales organization. If you’re lucky, you can build upon the competency model work your HR and L&D counterparts have already developed and make it more specific to the functional needs of the sales role. Keep in mind, this will be unique for every role within your sales team. So, it’s best to keep it simple and just start with one role. Start by making a simple list of each skill needed, and once you have that list, you’ll start to uncover patterns which can help refine and simplify your training strategy. And good news: There are also plenty of tools out there to help build your training matrix. Excel and training tracking spreadsheets may be best for small sales teams, while a training matrix software or employee training management software may be more effective for larger salesforces.
Measure Skill Progression
Now that you have your skill matrix in place, we need to look at how we will actually measure each to define areas of opportunity across the sales organization and for each rep. This measurement is key to ensure you have a clear understanding of ability and progress. It will also provide the direction you need to ensure your development actions are actually driving performance. There are a few primary inputs to consider when measuring a skill. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Reporting and measuring your training efforts can be a difficult task, and many organizations just focus on training completion rates. But completion rates don’t show correlations between training and outcomes. It also doesn’t take into account retention or feedback, which are two major ways to track skill improvement and performance. This is why the best sales teams use training tracking software.
For example, if a rep completes “How to Negotiate a Deal” training, but can’t apply the skills they learned, the training is essentially useless. The best sales teams use learning and development software that delivers ongoing training and practice exercises so reps can revisit training and apply newly learned skills. Then leaders can review the tool’s employee training tracker to see how a rep performed in the training exercise instead of just seeing if they completed training. This makes it easier to deliver effective, poignant feedback that addresses skill gaps and improves performance.
This may be the easiest to execute, but it’s also the most subjective. Self-appraisals capture your reps’ perspectives and their manager on their ability to achieve each skill. Don’t overcomplicate it here; you can simply use a basic survey. The point is to make it easy for your reps and managers to share feedback and get the data you need.
Performance metrics are the most complex measure. These metrics are likely visible and easy to gather from your CRM, but they’re also nuanced because a one-to-one relationship between the skill and metric doesn’t exist. Think about each of the skills in your matrix and the performance metrics you track as a sales team then match the skill to the metric. For example, if the skill is “differentiate the competition,” the metric would be “win rate.”
It’s important to clearly define performance levels for each metric as you gather your data and begin to analyze. Think about each metric in three buckets: over-performance, acceptable performance, and below performance.
These are the opportunities throughout the quarter when each rep is evaluated on their ability to execute a task. Consider things like call review scorecards, role-play evaluation, practice feedback and evaluation, and certification achievement. When gathering this data, you’ll likely leverage your conversation intelligence and sales training tools as the primary resources. Your goal is to capture the opportunities as they relate to performance and growth
Now that you have your measurement criteria, it’s time to analyze and present it in a consumable format for you, your managers, and each rep. Your goal is to combine the inputs for each skill in your matrix to generate a “score” that you can use for comparison. To do this, think about the effect each measure has on the performance of each skill. This will help you determine the proper weighting as you generate the score.
Create an Action Plan
The most straightforward way to leverage this data is to find the areas of opportunity across your team and role analysis to drive your enablement programs. But where this data really sings is at the individual rep level. Let’s take a look at how you can take this data and develop rep specific action plans that focus on development needed to level-up their performance.
The first and most important step of building your action plan is to enable your managers. Spend time helping your managers understand how this is going to directly benefit their teams, how to interpret the data, how to coach each individual skill, and how to properly manage their development time.
Next, when developing individual action plans, focus on the data to find areas of opportunity. These could be clear gaps in a skill that can be addressed for improvement or it could be additional investment in a skill as an accelerator. This means you don’t always have to focus on the skills that fall at the bottom of the list. Each rep and manager should find one skill to focus on and build their plan around it.
Once the skill of focus is defined, document the actions that will be taken throughout the course of the quarter to improve that skill. This plan will include commitments from both the rep and manager. Actions could include training from your sales training platform, role-play opportunities with peers, a book club, or extra focus on call reviews for targeted feedback.
This action plan should be reviewed on a regular cadence to ensure everyone is holding up their end of the bargain. Leverage one-on-one meetings to focus on skill development and review actions taken during the week.
Consistent sales performance is the lifeblood of any successful organization. Without a clear understanding of how we succeed, we can’t achieve repeatability across a large group of individual reps and teams. But with the right skill matrix and tracking efforts, your team will be on the path to sales success.
Develop Skills and Improve Sales Performance with Lessonly’s Training Management Software
Sales teams learn, practice, and perform with Lessonly. Companies like SalesLoft, Jostens, and Deluxe Corporation use Lessonly to improve rep skills and close more deals. Want to see how your sales team could benefit from Lessonly? Click on any of the tiles below to learn more about us, or take a look at this quick preview.