What does a “good” sales rep look like?
You may be tempted just to answer “any rep that hits their quota.”
But anyone who’s worked in a sales organization knows that’s not quite true. You can have aggressive reps who, for every customer they gain, piss off five prospects. That’s not someone you want representing your business in the market.
So “good” obviously extends beyond a rep just hitting their numbers. There are other factors that go into play:
- Telling your company’s story
- Understanding and effectively navigating their industry/territory
- Explaining your product and its benefits
- Effectively managing their pipeline
- Using the CRM to record interactions
It’s important for you to document what your organization considers to be its core competencies. That way, you can not only analyze and score rep performance, but you can ensure those areas are covered during onboarding.
Here are five competencies that should definitely be a part of your onboarding process:
1. Knowing your company inside and out
If your reps are going to represent the business, they should understand what they’re representing.
This means that, at a bare minimum, they need to understand your organization’s story:
- Who are you as a company?
- Why was your company founded?
- What are your mission, values, and purpose?
- What sets you apart from the competition?
- Why should a potential customer do business with you?
People don’t just buy because a company has a great product. They buy from companies and brands they believe in and trust. If your reps don’t understand who you are, they’re not going to be able to sell you — they’ll either half-ass the pitch or blow it completely, both of which suck.
So when you onboard new reps, spend time training them on who your company is. They’re not going to learn everything overnight, but it’s a good start.
And, with a solid coaching program, you can track their progress and help them build up their knowledge over time.
2. Strong business and industry acumen
Great reps understand how decisions are made within customer organizations, how industry events impact prospect behaviors, and how to be responsive to industry news and events.
Unfortunately, a lot of companies hire new college graduates, who don’t have the experience needed to understand how the business world works.
What’s more, just because a rep does have experience doesn’t mean they’re a top performer. They could be a terrible rep who’s spent the past 15 years perfecting the art of being terrible.
So for every rep within your organization, you need to assess their business and industry acumen. This could include quizzing them on recent industry events, educating them on terminology and acronyms, or even creating competitive battle cards for use during the onboarding process.
If they aren’t up to snuff, it’s important that you train and coach them as soon as possible to develop their industry knowledge. You need them to be able to command a conversation.
3. Deep knowledge of your products and services
Just as your reps need to understand your organization, they also need to know what exactly they’re selling.
Some people would argue that not every sales role requires in-depth knowledge of the products or services they’re selling.
Respectfully, we think that’s bulls**t.
People buy from people who are enthusiastic about what they have to offer. But you can’t get excited about something you know nothing about.
This is why your reps need to understand not only what your product does, but why it will benefit the customer. As they get more excited about the product, that enthusiasm will become contagious.
Pretty soon, the prospect will be so excited, they’ll practically beg your reps to let them buy the product.
Product training should be a core part of your onboarding process, but it should also be an area of continual education. There are so many times I’ve heard reps say, “Hey, I didn’t know we could do that.”
Maybe if they had known , they could have convinced one of their prospects to close.
4. Role-specific competencies
No matter what industry they’re working in, there are a number of standard things that a sales rep has to know how to do:
- Write up contracts
- Qualify leads and pass them onto the account executive
- Generate and modify quotes
- Hand accounts over to implementation and customer success
Many companies adopt a “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” approach to these administrative tasks. Unfortunately, that approach means that every time a rep encounters a situation where one of these skills is needed, it becomes a fire drill.
You can avoid these kinds of situations by incorporating role-specific competencies into your onboarding process.
In addition to initial training in all of these areas, you should also spend some time coaching your reps the first time they walk through each of these processes.
This will serve to both reinforce the training and solidify their knowledge so they can perform flawlessly on their own.
5. Skills and behaviors
Once you’ve decided which areas of competency your reps need to have in order to effectively work in your organization, it’s time to take the next step: putting that knowledge into practice.
Without that critical step, all of that time you’ve put into training and onboarding them will be for nothing.
There are a number of highly granular skills that your reps need to develop. Here are just a few examples:
- Uncovering a prospect’s needs and pain points
- Actively listening (i.e. adapting the conversation to what the prospect says on the other end)
- Demonstrating not just your products’ features and functionality but how they expect a customer to use the product
- Effectively managing their pipeline
- Managing their time to invest more in high-value deals
Reps should also be very well trained on your sales methodology. Not just in an academic, abstract sense but in how it applies to every stage of the sale process: prospecting, connecting with leads, qualification, working deals, etc.
The only tried-and-true way to help reps achieve this level of mastery is through coaching. As their manager, you should spend time observing how your reps behave on their calls, provide constructive feedback on their performance, and track their progress toward full mastery of these skills.
Understanding which core competencies you expect of your reps can be key to having a consistently effective sales force.
Without clear standards to guide the process, you’re going to have a hard time accurately projecting each rep’s performance, which, in turn, means you’ll have an inconsistent sales funnel.
Identifying your organization’s core competencies, establishing a coaching program as part of your onboarding process, and tracking and measuring progress on those competencies can help you retain reps who are going to actually drive your business forward.
For more tips and tricks on the onboarding process, click here to download our guide.