Measuring the Business Impact of a Competency Model
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For sales enablement, the process of identifying core competencies to develop baseline assessments is a worthy pursuit—but it’s not always enough to drive meaningful and tangible results in sales proficiency.
In baseball, a coach who changes game strategy based on up-to-the-minute numbers can turn the game around and impact the final score. A manager who waits for the final data to come in—after the team has already lost—has missed their chance to alter that outcome.
“If you focus on competency, you’re focusing on the wrong thing,” said Giorgia Ortiz, head of global sales enablement at Lever. “What you should be focusing on is the end result or impact that a high functioning person on that competency should be exhibiting, because that’s really the trigger or the goal.”
Pairing competency expectations with consistent, thoughtful measurement and evaluation can maximize business impact. Competency improvement is just another step forward in a larger cultural transformation that ties an organization’s core mission and business values to driving talent acquisition, supporting sales reps in their learning and growth, better preparing sales teams for success, and improving retention.
With an increasingly competitive labor market and evolving industry trends, it is critical for organizations to attract the right caliber of talent and invest in improving their skills and knowledge. Sales enablement can play a pivotal role in driving talent acquisition for revenue-facing teams through competency tracking.
During the hiring process, enablement and human resources can identify and target key foundational and role-specific competencies that contribute to a seller’s productivity and success. Defining core competencies creates unified and transparent answers to the questions:
- Who are we hiring?
- Why are we hiring them?
- Have new hires showcased competencies that align with the role’s competencies?
- Where are there competency gaps?
Establishing distinct criteria improves understanding of each new hire’s unique strengths and weaknesses, creating clearer assessments and skill tracking. Better knowledge of one’s motivations and challenges will then deliver an opportunity to close competency gaps, by focusing on tailoring the new hire’s onboarding program or providing additional plans and resources for greater support.
Targeted development plans improve new hires’ accessibility to insights regarding the organization’s various career trajectory options, rewards structure, and so on. Reps will feel listened to and understood when initiatives are deliberately designed and prioritized to their motivations and opportunities for growth. Purposeful planning and consistent communication also attract talent by building trust, boosting morale, and creating a sales culture that reflects business objectives and values.
“We’re developing robust hiring plans for each team with targeted questions tied to specific competencies and areas of expertise along with a basic assessment and scoring rubric,” said Devon McDermott, vice president of sales enablement at Persado.
For insight into competency mapping’s impact on hiring success within your organization, consider measuring the following talent acquisition analytics:
- Candidates who meet ideal hiring criteria
- Candidates who meet competency requirements
- Feedback on recruiting experience
- Percentage of job offers accepted
- Average time to hire
- Total cost per hire
“This is to ensure we’re hiring the ‘right folks’ and that we have a plan with the right learning solutions to develop, grow, nurture, and most importantly, retain those happy and successful employees,” said McDermott.
When competencies are embedded in the recruiting and hiring processes for revenue-facing teams, organizations are more likely to fill key positions quickly and effectively, compete to hire the talent needed, and ensure talent entering the organization are better prepared to meet strategic objectives.
Measuring competency improvement can bring speed, focus, and agility to the implementation of targeted sales training programs, while helping to quickly enhance individual progress.
Competency metrics that are deeply rooted in the skills, knowledge, and behaviors necessary for success can help enablement track individual performance and craft tailored development plans to empower continuous growth. Examples of competency metrics to track a rep’s performance include:
- Competency improvement:
- Number of certifications completed
- Improvement in competencies related to both soft and hard skills over a period of time
- Scope and complexity of competency improvement
- Number of skills improved
- New skills obtained
- Ability to consistently close deals:
- Time to ramp
- Time to productivity
- Time to first deal compared to time to second deal and beyond
- Time to quota attainment
While competency measurement will allow reps to focus their time on solving more strategic challenges and areas for development to improve performance, it will also enable sellers to further create business impact by empowering access and capabilities to career leveling. Competencies offer reps clarity as to where they currently stand in the organization, how qualified they are for key promotions or other opportunities, and how to move laterally. Understanding the competencies associated with success at each level can help reps set strategic goals for what to grow into. In addition, this can nurture individuals’ motivations, as it assures reps that competency initiatives have their best interests in mind.
“What competency mapping tied to career leveling and development planning does is it provides the right motivation,” said McDermott. “We’re motivating the team by giving them foundations for mastery and success through a very clear roadmap for leveling up and providing the enablement and talent development solutions to actually get there.”
Frontline managers have visibility of the day-to-day activities and behavioral competencies of their team. When competency mapping is transformed into a valuable, active tool for tracking team performance, frontline managers can maximize sales productivity by understanding the best pathways to success for each rep and reinforcing key behaviors.
“The competency analysis for me is the frequency with which you can observe your sellers exhibiting specific skills, behaviors, and practices that contribute to them being a better seller,” said John Dougan, global director of sales enablement for Workday.
Managers can evaluate a team’s skill gaps by examining trends where the group struggles to meet competencies, then follow with laser-focused coaching to reinforce the right behaviors. When frontline managers closely track sales competency, they build trust with reps, improve sales rep confidence, and foster friendly competition. Often, teams that prioritize competency-based metrics outperform those that do not.
To assess how competencies correlate to overall team performance, consider the following metrics in relation to the competency levels on each team:
- Number of certified reps achieving quota
- Competency improvement by manager
- Team performance by manager
- Win rate by team
Even in teams where learning styles and knowledge levels vary, frontline managers can still kick-start new habits around competency gaps and growth. Competency improvement provides accessibility to what managers expect from reps, as well as digestibility of insights because managers can break down competency development into smaller, comprehensive tasks for reps.
In addition to enabling managers to provide laser-focused coaching and reinforce behavior change, a team’s competency improvements–or lack thereof–can help reveal if certain pairings of managers and reps are unproductive. A manager’s quality, cadence, and consistency of coaching varies by team. It is critical to establish ongoing accountability in order to measure and then adjust or sync managers’ leadership and its impact on team performance.
“Why do we never account for the type of manager we’re about to put [a salesperson] with,” said Leff Bonney, professor at Florida State University’s Sales Institute. “A good metric would be to look at if over-time, can we figure out that Manager A does not work well with rep profiles two and three?”
In “The Handbook of Competency Mapping”, Seema Sanghi affirmed that by defining behavior indicators that are needed to produce results, competencies provide direction to the organization, establish consistency, and build a culture of efficiency and growth.
Competency mapping for each revenue-facing role drives alignment to organizational goals and strategies because reps will have knowledge of what they should focus on. Enablement will also have a better understanding of what the sales culture is missing, and can then reinforce the behaviors aligned with the desired culture and hire reps that possess skills that fit those standards.
An organization’s clear, holistic approach for competency improvement, and overall career development, establishes a more empowering, transparent culture that retains reps.
“What can I do to make sure my salespeople are happy,” said Laura Welch, director of sales enablement at HP Inc. “They feel appreciated, they feel heard and listened to. They feel like you’re investing in them. So, you’re investing in their coaching and their training and their wellbeing, and that you’ve matched them with the right manager, or you’re attempting to do that.”
To demonstrate the impact of competency on talent retention, consider tracking the following metrics in relation to reps’ competency levels:
- Average tenure at company
- Average turnover rate
- Rep satisfaction and morale
- Number of competency maps completed
The payoff of the competency model is similar to that of brand positioning efforts–insights can elevate talent retention, benefit long-term growth, offset onboarding costs, and improve the organization’s ability to continue to attract top talent.
Organizations are rapidly innovating and adapting to keep pace with the competition for talent, changing industry trends, and considerable customer demands. Often, it is sales reps who are stretched in many different ways by misaligned or ever-changing strategic objectives, interfering with their capabilities and sales proficiency. The greatest business benefit of competency mapping is the heightened ability for reps to measure their core competencies and improve their skills, productivity, and knowledge—thus, boosting sales performance.
As the rising pressure to innovate necessitates a clear, structured roadmap for growth and success with unique sales onboarding and training, companies who have invested in competency tracking are likely to strengthen hiring processes, individual and team performance for revenue-facing reps, and talent retention.