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Driving Sales Performance Through Purposeful Skill Development

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Sales is a highly measurable role where the numbers shine like a spotlight throughout the organization. When we can create repeatability in the process and performance, we can help drive the results that lead success. While these numbers are easy to measure, they don’t always tell the full story when it comes to individual reps.

Building a Skill Matrix

A skill matrix is the foundation of your entire sales enablement program. It’s likely you’ll have to build this from scratch with the collaboration of your partners across the sales organization. If you are 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.

The goal is to be able to answer what it takes to be successful in this role at your company. You want to identify the skills and knowledge a rep needs to reach identified goals. Keep in mind, this will be unique for every role within your sales organization.

For now, keep it simple and just start with one role. Start by making a simple list of each skill and why it is important to a rep’s success. Once you have this list, you’ll start to uncover patterns you can use for categorization. Use these to refine and simplify your list to provide clarity.

Measuring Skill Progression

Now that you have your skill matrix in place, we need to look at how we will measure each to define areas of opportunity across the sales organization and for each individual. Just like all sales, measurement is key to ensure we have a clear understanding of ability and progress. This will provide the direction to ensure your development actions are driving the results you need for performance.

There are a few primary inputs to consider when measuring a skill:


This may be the easiest to execute, but it’s also the most subjective. The goal is to capture the perspective of the individual rep 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 and get the data you need.

Naas Figure 1.png
Performance Metrics
Performance metrics are the most complex measure. These metrics are likely visible and easy to gather from your CRM, but they are 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 is 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.

Performance Evaluation
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.

Naas Figure 2.png

Creating 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 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 each party 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 cannot achieve repeatability across a large group of individual reps and teams. Your skill matrix is the foundation that underpins that success and provides the map for progress.

About the Author

Bryan Naas is a leader in sales enablement, with more than 15 years combined experience in sales and learning design. With roots in public education, Bryan cultivated a love for learning and sales to take on leadership roles in both small and large software companies. Currently, the director of sales enablement at Lessonly, Bryan drives strategy and execution to ensure the whole company is prepared to successfully sell the Lessonly message and brand.

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