The Difference Between Sales Competencies, Sales Capabilities and Sales Outcomes

If you watched Super Bowl 57, you observed two teams that simply refused to give up or give in.  Sometimes, that’s the feeling I get when I’m writing articles and I have solid data on my side, while dozens of competing authors just won’t stop their constant barrage of articles using junk science, anecdotal evidence, and alternate facts.

One such article caught my eye this week. 5 Capabilities Sellers Must Have to Be Top Performers had the potential to be a must read article but it quickly became obvious that the “5 capabilities” in the article are not capabilities at all – they’re outcomes.  Maybe I’m getting old and have become ill-informed but it seems like a pretty important distinction, don’t you think?  It’s like saying that the one important capability that NFL players must have is scoring – which is an outcome, not a capability!  One pet peeve I have from when my son was playing Little League and Middle School baseball was the coach who would yell to the wild pitcher, “throw strikes!”  A strike is an outcome so that’s not coaching and it’s not instructive.  If the coach suggested a single adjustment to the young pitcher’s mechanics, the adjustment would help the pitcher throw strikes.  Similarly, when sales managers tell their salespeople to “sell more” they are focused on outcomes instead of coaching on the capabilities that would help them sell more.

When someone does not know the difference between a capability and an outcome, is that person truly qualified to write about a topic and claim to be an expert?  Unfortunately, it seems like they are. 

Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated and assessed more than 2.3 million salespeople and measures Twenty-One Sales Core Competencies.  Five of the competencies are in the category of Will to Sell and are not actually capabilities.  Six of the competencies are in the category of Sales DNA and those are also not capabilities.  Ten of the competencies are Tactical Selling competencies and are very much capabilities so the top five capabilities should come from those ten competencies.

There are many specialized selling roles and the ten competencies do not apply equally to all roles.  For example, Hunting does not typically apply to the Account Management role.  Presentation Approach and Closing do not typically apply to the Hunting role.  That said, the five most important capabilities to be top performers, that apply across all selling roles, are:

  • Ability to Reach Decision Makers. Only 28% of all salespeople reach decision makers (and only 11% are the final decision makers).  83% of the best salespeople and only 5% of the worst salespeople have this capability making the best salespeople 1800% better than the worst.
  • Has and Follows a Milestone-Centric Sales Process.  Only 34% of all salespeople have this capability and the best salespeople are 2075% more capable than the worst salespeople.
  • Ability to Build Strong Relationships.  Only 29% of salespeople are able to leverage their relationships to win business and the top salespeople are 1200% more capable than the worst salespeople.
  • Ability to Get Prospects Beyond Nice to Have.  The best salespeople are 490% better at taking a consultative approach and creating urgency than the worst salespeople.  Only 7% of all salespeople get past “nice to have.”
  • Ability to Fully Qualify.  The best salespeople are 8600% better at qualifying than the worst salespeople.

A salesperson who consistently, efficiently, and effectively executes these 5 capabilities are as much as 2400% better than the worst salespeople.

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