As sales organizations evolve, they inevitably undergo change – especially sales job roles and responsibilities. To ensure a successful sales transformation, sales leaders need to ensure the right people are in the right jobs. Sometimes jobs may transform only slightly, such as adding new products to a seller’s bag. Other times, the transformation creates completely new jobs with new responsibilities. The Alexander Group (AGI) recommends using a competency model to identify the required job skills, assess incumbents and identify the best candidates. A successful transformation starts with a well-designed competency model.

What Is a Competency Model?

A competency model is a framework which describes the knowledge, skills and behaviors required to successfully perform a job. Many companies use a competency model – an important coaching and development tool – as a foundation to talent management. When built correctly, companies can also employ competency models as a recruitment tool by asking specific behavioral-based interview questions linked to specific competencies.

Structure of a Competency Model

Most competency models contain skills and behaviors specific to a particular job role or function. Others contain foundational guiding competencies that are common to every job. The most common competency model structure includes the following: Competency ⇒ Skills ⇒ Observable Behaviors. Most models classify the skills at three different levels of proficiency, for example:

  1. Threshold: A seller demonstrates a solid understanding of the of the target skill but requires additional training to be able to perform as fully expected.
  2. Fully Functional: A seller understands the skill, leverages the skill to enhance their performance and is performing as expected.
  3. Expert: A seller has fully mastered the skill and acts as a consultant/teacher to others.

As sellers progress through the levels of proficiency, companies expect them to have mastered all of the traits in the preceding level.

Use During a Sales Transformation

During a major sales transformation, organizations face the challenge of filling newly designed sales roles. This may involve moving people from existing roles within the organization or hiring from outside. A competency model can aide in both situations. The first step is to create a competency model for all new sales roles. If an existing competency model exists, it can serve as a starting point. Then, a cross-functional leadership team must work together to identify the desired skills and behaviors for the new sales roles. Use the competency model in two ways: assess existing talent for fit in the new roles and help develop behavioral interview questions for new hires.

  1. Assessing Existing Talent:  Rank the level of proficiency for each skill, for each incumbent. Some companies use a weighted average when some skills are more critical than others. Rank the incumbents to identify who might be the best fit for a particular role. In addition, look at overall averages for each skill. This helps identify training gaps.
  2. Create Behavioral Interview Questions: Use the competency model to create an interview guide tailored to the skills required for the new sales roles. For example, if a skill is “Align solutions with customer needs,” an interview question might be “Describe a time when a company required you to prove the value of a product or solution; what techniques did you use?” The answers to these behavioral questions will help identify strong candidates for the new roles.

In summary, as an organization transforms, job roles may change. Filling new roles as a component of a sales transformation is part art, part science. Assigning people to new roles based on anecdotal evidence may not always yield the best results. Using a well-designed competency model provides guidance and structure to accurately assess and fill new sales job roles and responsibilities.

Contact an AGI practice leader.

Originally published by Brian Bell


Insight type: Article

Industry: Cross-Industry

Role: C-Suite, Sales and Marketing Leadership

Topic: Sales Transformation, Strategy

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