Question: We are considering holding our sales staff accountable for demonstrating performance in certain sales-related skill areas. How should we determine the skills to measure?

Answer: There are two main areas that you need to consider. The first is whether or not the salespeople know what they need to know about the skills required to do their jobs. The other is to measure whether or not a salesperson actually uses those skills. You may consider measuring and rewarding both.
The first step is to look at the specific job requirements. Then, identify the skills that directly relate. For instance, the skills required for inside or outside salespeople may vary. It doesn’t make much sense to hold someone accountable for skills that he or she is not trained in or doesn’t have knowledge of.
Once you have identified the skills, craft a knowledge assessment. If a salesperson fails any given segment of the assessment, he or she will require remedial training before you can expect accountability in terms of performance.
Lastly, ask salespeople to demonstrate how they use the skills to affect sales outcomes. But don’t measure whether or not they can demonstrate the skills in a role play. It doesn’t prove that they are actually using their skills. Instead, look at specific examples of how they have used their skills to impact sales success. Anecdotal examples work quite well for that type of measurement.
Then, make sure you reward sales performance. Use a carrot, not a stick.
Following are some of the most typical skills to measure for sales roles.

Adjusting to customers
— Utilizes a consultative sales approach to outsell the competition.
— Identifies their sales style and how it effects interactions with customers.
— Identifies the dominant behavioral style of customers.
— Adjusts sales approach with customers based on their dominant style.
— Identifies the preferred language of customers.
— Adjusts sales approach with customers based on their preferred language.

— Analyzes most profitable sales efforts.
— Demonstrates telephone-prospecting skills.
— Assesses potential in existing accounts.
— Creates sales call objectives.
— Identifies and develop strategy for key influencers.
— Utilizes customer profiling to develop account strategy including planning meetings with the customer.
— Develops, prioritizes and maintains a market and territory plan.

Building relationships
— Builds trust and rapport.
— Utilizes profile information to build long-term relationships.
— Develops a strategy for building relationships with key influencers.
— Improves customer satisfaction by addressing individual customer needs.
— Utilizes customer profiling information to increase customer satisfaction.
— Utilizes creative problem solving to develop long-term customer strategies.
— Identifies issues and solutions specific to each customer’s business goals.
— Handles stalls and objections
— Clarifies stalls to the sale.
— Categorizes and develops answers to most common objections.
— Overcomes stalls to most common objections.
— Turns price objections into total cost opportunities.
— Demonstrates value for each customer.

Consultative selling
— Assesses individual needs and wants of customers.
— Applies benefits and features appropriately in order to emphasize value for the customer.
— Utilizes questioning skills appropriately in customer interactions.
— Utilizes the consultative sales approach on sales calls.

Closing andgaining commitments
— Recognizes opportunities to gain commitments.
— Utilizes closing techniques to gain commitments and shorten the sales cycle.
— Recognizes and acts on buying signs.
— Applies convincer strategies where appropriate.

— Utilizes a collaborative approach to negotiation.
— Plans for successful negotiations, including evaluating powers and making concessions.
— Identifies tactics utilized by buyers.
— Applies the rules of successful winning negotiations.
— Uses win-win negotiation techniques, so both seller & buyer win.
— Plans for the different reasons that people negotiate.
— Recognizes their negotiation style and the negotiation style of the buyer.
— Makes successful concessions to improve profitability.
— Recognize powers and strengths in negotiation.
— Handles buyer tactics.

Marcia Gauger is the president of Impact Sales, a performance improvement and training company with offices in Wisconsin, Florida and Arkansas. You can contact her at 262-642-9610 or Her column appears in every other issue of SBT.

Feb. 6, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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