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Competency Testing to Validate Rep Behavior Change

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For competencies to be used as an effective method of rep evaluation, it is important to first make sure that reps are being held accountable to the right ones. By validating that competencies lead to the right behaviors, sales enablement can ensure that behavioral expectations produce the desired results.

Competency testing and validation can be integrated into many business operations, such as interviewing to evaluate and select the right candidates, performance reviews, and job knowledge testing. With the right competency expectations in place, sales enablement practitioners can help create more personalized development plans for reps.

Through objective assessments, exercises, and tools to evaluate rep performance, sales enablement practitioners can integrate competency testing into business practices to drive more effective rep behavior with tailored support for ongoing growth.

Nominate Objective Assessors

Remove any bias from the process of evaluating competencies by enlisting the help of objective assessors. Generally one level or more above the person being evaluated, these assessors should be trained in assessment techniques, including how to recognize the competencies that will be demonstrated in the exercises. They should also have a thorough understanding of the role they are evaluating for, whether interviewing potential candidates or job incumbents, and the desired levels of competencies for the position.

In her book, “The Handbook of Competency Mapping”, author Seema Sanghi said that assessors must be able to do the following:

  • Observe reps objectively
  • Classify observations
  • Record rep behavior
  • Write individual assessment reports
  • Give the individual feedback
  • Predict performance within the role

While assessors can be internal or external to the organization, it is essential that they remain unbiased when evaluating reps or potential candidates. One way to minimize bias is to rotate assessors for different activities so that each rep is evaluated by multiple people. Additionally, bias can be reduced by outlining clear expectations for each competency. By defining behavioral indicators that are observable, desirable, essential to the role, and correlated with the required competency, practitioners can work to minimize bias in evaluations.

“The role of the assessor is to make an informed judgment about the range of evidence a candidate may produce to demonstrate their competence to meet the assessment criteria,” said Sanghi.

Leverage Exercises and Tools

Assessment exercises and tools can be used to measure a rep’s ability to demonstrate various competencies, as well as the outcome of those behaviors. Exercises and tools should be reliable, structured, and standardized in order to be used as an objective form of measurement.

Before starting, have a clear understanding of the objective for each exercise. To produce more reliable results, observe each competency using multiple exercises. Identify expectations, such as the frequency of behavioral indicators, for each exercise before starting in order to create standardized qualifications for performance.

Consider some of the following examples of exercises and tools that can be used in competency testing:

  • Case studies: Ask reps to examine an imaginary potential customer to identify relevant information (such as buyer’s needs) and determine an appropriate solution and selling approach. Case studies may help judge competencies such as uncovering needs or quantitative reasoning.
  • Role plays: Utilizing role-playing scenarios can help assess reps’ interpersonal skills and competencies such as assertiveness, basic selling skills, and the ability to establish rapport.
  • Presentations: Asking reps to develop presentations around topics such as the product, a new release, or the industry in which they sell to can be used to judge communication competencies, such as public speaking or the ability to engage an audience, as well as judge technical knowledge.
  • Technical knowledge assessments: Candidates who are being assessed for more specialized roles may be required to complete technical knowledge assessments. These written exams can be used to measure different occupational capabilities, technical knowledge, and uncover reps’ thought processes through technical solutions.
  • Personality questionnaires: These can be used to assess reps across interpersonal competencies, such as competitiveness, self-sufficiency, and divergent thinking. Unlike technical knowledge assessments, there are no right or wrong answers, but a focus on how reps can relate to others or think through problems. These can be self-assessments, peer reviews, or even formal tests such as the Myer-Briggs type indicator.

Integrate Testing into Day-to-Day Business Management

Integrating competency assessments into different business practices can help ensure that strategic initiatives are supported at every step of the business. By using competency-based guidelines to evaluate reps, sales enablement practitioners can help make sure the right people are in the right roles to meet organizational goals. Examples of processes where competency testing can be integrated include:

  • Interviewing: Competency-based interviewing can help identify candidates that will perform well in the role based on their personal characteristics.
  • Onboarding: Although reps can come from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels, competency testing in onboarding can help uncover gaps in new hires’ skill sets and determine next steps to create more personalized onboarding programs.

“You might have someone that is really good at one particular competency early on, and so you begin to focus your efforts on the areas that they really need help in,” said Giorgia Ortiz, head of global sales enablement at Lever. “That way, it’s not a catch-all for everybody, but you can begin to customize this person’s individual onboarding within a very clear framework.”

  • Performance reviews: Competency testing can be integrated into annual performance reviews to provide a common language between reps, managers, and enablement around performance expectations and guidelines.
  • Professional development plans: By using competency testing to better understand where reps are starting from, enablement practitioners can help create more personalized professional development plans by identifying the specific behaviors and competencies that require more attention, and developing programs or certifications to target these.

To effectively integrate competency testing into practices such as performance reviews, partner with frontline managers to ensure they are familiar with the required competencies and can help coach to those behaviors.

Create Action Plans

After assessing rep competency levels, summarize their performance in order to predict their success in a given role, determine next steps, and create an action plan for growth. Summary reports are a great way to ensure that a rep’s competency performance is recorded accurately and available for easy reference.

According to “The Handbook of Competency Mapping”, reports should include:

  • Core strengths and development areas
  • Behavioral observations and changes in behavior
  • Explanations of the effectiveness of the behaviors
  • Alternate or corrective behavior suggested

Use the identified areas of development to build tailored training and professional development programs for reps. By targeting the specific behaviors that lead to competency – and identifying corrective behaviors when needed – sales enablement practitioners can ensure the right behaviors are demonstrated and further that they are achieving the desired results.

“We’re developing the core competencies for each of these salespeople,” said Chad Dyar, director of sales enablement at Prometric. “If we have a great enablement and training program and they’re going through it and they’re taking assessments and they’re going to practicums and practicing those new skills, we can track improvement.”

By validating that reps are able to demonstrate the required competencies, sales enablement practitioners can ensure that reps are driving results, from interviewing to performance reviews and continuous career development.