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Sales Enablement Analytics: Competency Metrics Matter

| 11 min read


The ingredients that make a successful salesperson can sometimes feel like a top-secret recipe. While most companies have top performers that consistently hit their numbers month after month, every organization has also been perplexed by reps that seem to check every box on paper, but still are unable to achieve success. This exact problem is often a core impetus of sales enablement — to put the talent acquisition, onboarding, training, coaching, and talent retention processes in place to boost the proficiency of sales reps and shrink the gap between low and high performers. In order to do this effectively, sales enablement practitioners need to prioritize competency metrics.

Competency refers to the skills, knowledge, or processes that sales reps need to master to meet the expectations of their job. Sales enablement has a critical role to play in maximizing sales rep competency, all the way from bringing great sales talent in the door to nurturing their skills through training. For top-performing sellers, it is something that they now expect from their companies.

“High performing sellers are much more in demand for real-time learning, development, and training,” said Peter Ostrow, senior research director at SiriusDecisions. “They’re also expecting a lot more from their sales employers when it comes to permanent paths towards career development, better competency development, and skills, right from day one on the job.”

Prioritizing competency is necessary for sellers to keep up with the pace of rapid change in the modern selling environment. As trends and dynamics in the market continuously evolve, sales enablement must ensure that sales reps have the skills and competencies to guide buyers toward a decision in their favor.

By tracking competency-based metrics, sales enablement can implement more effective initiatives to uplevel the skills of the sales organization and impact holistic business performance as a result.

The Business Impact of Competency

While organizations inherently understand the need to prioritize seller competency, many do not yet prioritize competency as a core metric for sales proficiency. When it comes to sales training, for example, most organizations use simple activity tallies to gauge success. As the Sales Enablement Analytics 2019 report revealed, many sales enablement practitioners default to measuring activity-based metrics such as the number of physical and virtual training sessions delivered, the number of participants in a session, and qualitative feedback from sales reps on the learning activities.

sales training chart

As the table above displays, the number of organizations measuring the skill development of sales reps drops significantly beyond basic activity metrics, including metrics related to seller competency. For example, only 16% measure competency improvement post-activity and only 11% measure the number of certified sellers achieving quota.

However, organizations need to recognize the importance of metrics that dig into the actual ability displayed by sales reps to do their jobs effectively. In fact, organizations that do prioritize competency-based metrics perform better than those that do not. Those that measure “competency improvement post-activity” experience a win rate that is 6 points higher than those that do not.

competency improvement chart

In paying close attention to competency improvement, sales enablement can more accurately define and target competencies that contribute to success, design training and coaching programs around those, and ensure competency is maintained over time.

“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 at Workday.

In addition to the metrics mentioned above including competency improvement post-activity and the number of certified sellers achieving quota, consider tracking metrics such as certification pass rates by segment engagement during training sessions, such as the number of questions asked per session, versus quota.

How to Start Measuring Competency

As sales reps become more competent, they become more capable of high performance, ultimately leading to more deals won and better sales performance as a whole. Here are four steps sales enablement teams can take to begin prioritizing seller competency to improve sales proficiency.

Define Competencies with Executive Stakeholders

A crucial first step is to gain buy-in from the executive stakeholders on the competencies they believe every seller needs to be successful. Each organization will have different key competencies based on the priorities of the business as well as the experiences that have led to success in the past for top-performing reps.

“You can’t just assume that one-size-fits-all for all sales reps, and that if you have an initiative that you want everybody to go execute that, people are just going to inherently know how to do that,” said Joe Booth, senior director of sales enablement at SecureAuth. “You’ve got to take a look at what has been successful in the past and then build these programs around that.”

As the sales enablement team, spend time observing the day-to-day actions of sales reps to gain an understanding of skills that lead to success and behaviors that need adjustment. Based on those observations, develop recommendations for the executive team to consider, alongside these questions:

  • Based on your priorities for the business, what adjustments would you make?
  • What would you add?
  • Is there anything missing?

“What this approach does is it allows for us to come with an initial recommendation which helps increase our value, but it also gives managers an opportunity to weigh in and say ‘I think I would tweak this’ or ‘I want to add that,’” said Glenn Clark, director of sales enablement at Smartsheet. “We’re gaining buy-in while we’re getting their input so that when we launch it, we actually have a consensus across enablement and senior leadership.”

Establish Baseline Against Competencies

Before launching any initiative aimed at improving a competency, ask reps to self-assess their progress against each competency. Also, ask the frontline sales managers to evaluate the level of competency for each of their team members, and compare the results of those two data points.

This will give sales enablement a baseline to measure progress from, and will also help reveal gaps where specific sales reps might benefit from some additional training or resources.

“Once we have rated the reps on those competencies, then we have the beginnings of what do we do from an enablement perspective,” said Clark.

Design Competency Improvement Initiatives

With key competencies identified and a baseline defined, sales enablement practitioners can begin designing modalities that ensure all individuals get the level of support they need. This includes training programs to develop core skills and knowledge, as well as plans to help individuals that need an extra boost around a specific competency.

“What enablement will do, based on what we’re seeing in our evaluations and observations, is we will actually provide a series of recommendations, whether it is coaching approaches or reinforcement content, that managers can then go on and recommend to reps to help them improve in those areas where they are deficient,” said Clark.

Track Progress and Reinforce

Measuring sales rep competency is not a one-time event. Rather, sales enablement needs methods to assess consistency over time and reinforce skills to maximize seller competency. In addition to training activities, utilize role-plays with peers and managers, certification assessments, post-training tests, coaching/observation rubrics, and other methods to observe competency in action and measure progress.

“You are taking this type of training mentality where you’re saying we have kind of this circle of trust where you’re going to get to fail as many times as you need, and we’re going to keep giving you feedback and getting you set up for success and eventually, we’re kicking you out of the nest,” said Booth. “But before we do that, we want to be able to set up things like certifications, mandatory training, role-plays with their manager, things like this.”

In doing so, sales enablement will increase its business impact, as high-performing organizations require more than twice as much to validate that a sales rep is competent in their job before they release them to the field.

Measuring competency-based metrics is a key way that sales enablement can drive value for the business. Practitioners need to recognize that while activity-based metrics are commonly measured across most businesses, metrics that are deeply rooted in the skills sellers need to be successful in their jobs should be prioritized due to their potential for business impact.

To elevate the impact of competency metrics, sales enablement practitioners should begin by defining what the core competencies are that sellers should be accountable to and aligning on those with executive stakeholders. From there, sales enablement can establish a baseline, design programs to improve the gaps, and track progress against the baseline through reinforcement. Improving seller competency is necessary to improve sales proficiency overall, and sales enablement is core to driving that growth.

To learn more about the value of competency and other sales proficiency metrics, download the Sales Enablement Analytics 2019 report.