How do you rate your sales team? 5 stages to assess sales competence

Table of Contents

by Andrew Milbourn, CEO of Kiss The Fish

I have long been a student of sales excellence. After years of reviewing sales data and attending real sales calls with real sales professionals, I am ready to share my thoughts on the stages of sales competence.

There are five key stages in the career of a salesperson. Some people barely make it past stage 2, despite years of hard work and perhaps even some training on the way. Most make it to stage 4, but only a hand full ever make it to the hallowed ground of the CLIENT COACH.

So the question to ask yourself is…how do you or your salespeople stack up? Where are you on the following steps to greatness?

Typical experience
: most move up after 6 months but some stay here for up to two years.
Main Characteristics: Following a script or at least the same words every time. Feature-based selling, and always grateful for an order no matter what discount they have to give. They rarely prepare for a call as they don’t know how to and they don’t have a sales plan. They are operators waiting for the next instruction, often left stuck in telesales roles.

Typical experience: 
1 – 2 years
Main Characteristics; Appear as outwardly confident (until put in front of a client). The main feature of this level of selling is price discounting to win orders. Typically following a pathway that has been trained or self-taught. Trader salespeople are good at the ‘chat’ that is they know how to charm someone, but they fear rejection and see price as the main weapon to sell with. They may ask some questions of a buyer, but rarely the right ones in the right way. As soon as a buying signal is given, they move to close.

Typical experience: 
2 years +
Main Characteristics: By now they will have reached a reliable structured approach to sales, and may have sales plans for each client. The plans will always be restricted by a lack of true client focus. My experience is that they are often trying to come up with ideas for client sales and to build desire, often with some success. This level will often hit their targets but usually, this is down to the luck of the market, rather than any strategy. People often get stuck here because in their role, they default to account management and they do OK for a business in this role. They may never go any further unless they really understand the value issues for every client they come into contact with.

Typical experience: 
4 years +
Main Characteristics: This is the level of most good experienced salespeople. Every company will need at least one of these, someone who can just get on with it, who understands that selling is a problem-solving process and that the problems are all client side. They will have learned to use creativity and innovation to come up with solutions and to ‘package’ well in a negotiation. This level is a level of success, where targets are achieved and new business planning is understood. Problem solvers build good relationships with clients – they are often thought of as ‘too valuable to lose’ by managers. They are confident presenters and closers and they understand that it is all about client value.

Typical experience: 
4 years +
Main Characteristics: The top talent is here. Clients have a buying framework and often involve multiple stakeholders. At this level, the value equation and the factors that are anchoring value are the information required for them to understand and then to influence (Challenger selling). But there is more – all of this is done not to achieve a sales target or to show off, this work is done for the client’s benefit. At this level, there is a honed Customer curiosity that exists for the client’s benefit – not to stitch them up. Many think they are at this level because they make a couple of good calls, but very few actually make it. Those that do enjoy equality with their clients – their clients call them when they are in need of help or information. They naturally trigger the neuroscience of trust in a buyer.

At Kiss the Fish Ltd – we have developed this framework to help sales teams move faster to fulfill their potential. The first step of any growth journey, personal or corporate – is self-awareness. Working with a team we use this framework to start the journey and to give the strategy for each individual to reach the next stage on their journey.

A very wise man once said to me “The best always want to get better’“. I have been striving ever since to achieve greater and greater results for my clients. If you have the same ambition for your sales team and you aren’t sure of how to get them where you want them then get in touch.


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