Are your salespeople failing? A capability framework could help!



In this week’s blog, our resident sales capability expert and VP Americas at Profiling Online, John Dougan, examines how an effective versus ineffective capability framework can impact on a critical function within the business – the sales team.


According to the CSO Insights 2015 Sales Compensation and Performance Management Study, only 54.6% of sales professionals meet quota, meaning 45.4% do not. This leaves us with the question, "Are salespeople not reaching their goals because of a lack of professional capabilities?"


These statistics, along with other industry research reveals that as a function, sellers are becoming increasingly inefficient. Here’s the kicker though, both the sales people themselves and their managers are completely unaware of what isn’t working and have not identified the variables that require improvement.


Sales enablement is a huge area of investment for many organizations and my concern is that many initiatives are undertaken without understanding the current state of the sales culture.


Without first undertaking a thorough diagnostic or capability assessment, how do you know what to focus on changing if you are to stem the flow of sub par sales performance. In particular, what should be your initial focus to drive ROI in the short term?


Certainly, we can all agree that the buying landscape is changing, yet we as sellers have often relied on the same consistent approach for many, many years. Do we actually know what makes a seller successful in today’s modern, connected world?


The first question is:


Are the skills and behaviors of your high performers consistent or are there a multitude of contributors to their individual success?


To find this out each, unique organisation needs to consider looking at a range of skills which contribute to sales success. This range can be grouped into 4 key principles:


  1. Engaging

  2. Enlightening

  3. Energizing

  4. Efficacy



Successful sales and service is delivered through ‘engaging’ each customer or prospect, ‘enlightening’ them on how you can help solve their problem or recognize opportunity and ‘energizing’ them to take commercial action. Taking this approach and considering the skills and activities required at each step, results in a final stage;  ‘efficacy’ which is inclusive of many of the operational capabilities required.


These principles should make us consider both the human elements of successful selling, the behaviors that reflect them and the core activities and skills that are needed to execute them. Surely this is what we should be assessing?


If your current framework for assessing sales capability isn’t considering the emotions, feelings and beliefs that impact performance then, as a leader, you’re failing your sellers. If it doesn’t consider results, then it’s not an assessment of capability.


Many of the most common reported sales challenges are based on organizational frustrations around process but that doesn’t tell us why salespeople are not succeeding. Having and owning a process is a key component, but it’s important that we understand key individual attributes alongside company or group failings. For reporting to be truly valuable in measuring the ROI of training, it should cover both group level based organizational issues as well as the individual need for development in core sales comptencies.


We also need to consider the rapidly evolving state of the sales role, if we are to glean meaningful insight into development of individuals or group training. This means looking at other functional capability that sit outside of core selling. For example, as the line between sales and marketing blurs, what marketing competencies do our sellers need to effectively engage customers earlier in their buying cycle, energizing them to take action and enlightening them on how the selling organization can help?


Similarly, if we value an employee but their efficacy is below par, how do we place them into another, more suitable area of our organization, assuming that is an option.


In summary, we need to consider:


  • Why are the top sellers in your organization successful?

  • How do they achieve success?

  • What do they do consistently that makes them successful?

  • Are the frameworks that we are currently using outdated?


In aggregate, with 40% of the sales function failing to hit their quota, its fair to say the sales function is failing to adapt to the changes in customer behavior. Changing this starts with undertaking a thorough diagnostic or capability assessment.


If you would like to know more about how a capability framework and associated assessments would help your organization, please contact us or reach out directly to: Americas: or if you are in APAC:


Alternatively, if you'd like to gain more insights about the capability framework process, feel free to download our eBook 'Designing and Implementing a Successful Competency Assessment Program'.


You can also subscribe to 'The Insights Blog' and receive similar thought-leadership articles straight to your inbox. 


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