Sales Training

Sales Leaders: Assess Skills Gaps Now to Avoid Pipeline Issues Later

“Some of our best sellers have become some of our worst,” said the Sales Ops team at our largest client. We suspected this would happen during the changing sales landscape.

The client was describing a subset of sellers who had historically been star performers based on the strength of their relationships. These sellers relied heavily on face-to-face socializing.

“It’s the ones who never had to lean into any technology, because they were successful without it,” the lament continued.

Just months into the pandemic is long enough to tell whether some sellers are experiencing performance issues that require skill building. We recommend conducting an assessment on all your sellers, even informally, to see where your team has pandemic-induced skill gaps that will affect the health of your Q4 or Q1 ‘21 pipelines. Do it now while there’s still time to address those gaps.

The three biggest skills gaps we’ve seen are:

  • Virtual prospecting
  • Virtual presentation skills
  • Virtual relationship building

We needn’t point out the operative word. The pandemic has made it impossible for the number of sellers still banking on golf outings and client dinners to perform. It became hard to hide poor process discipline or gaps in selling fundamentals. And that’s before we discuss any additional proficiencies required by the “V” word. Virtual selling, that is.

Sales Have Shifted to a Virtual Perspective 

According to McKinsey’s survey of B2B companies across 11 countries, 90% of sales interactions are now virtual. This is certainly no surprise. But the interesting thing is that over half the survey respondents believed virtual interactions to be more effective than in-person sales calls.

That survey was conducted early in the pandemic. We imagine the skeptical half of respondents may be coming around.

The case for a sales force skills re-assessment becomes poignant if your team is struggling to manage changing customer requirements. It can also become obvious through major organizational shifts caused by pandemic furloughs or restructuring.

Sellers who relied too heavily on relationship strength may find those relationships no longer exist.

Assess Your Sales Teams’ Skills

How can you assess seller skills efficiently? There are a few methods:

  • Make heavy use of your leading indicators (e.g. number of customer conversations scheduled)
  • Ask your frontline managers
  • Send a quick survey and ask your sales force what they need
  • Go on a virtual “ride along.” Attend video calls and demos to observe where sellers may need training
  • Ask your customers. Find out how their needs are changing and how your sellers can meet those needs
  • Continue using a management cadence. Use regular checkpoints with your team to assess health of their accounts/pipeline and lack of resources

For additional team assessment tools, view our Toolbox.

Once you’ve assessed skills gaps, don’t dally on remediation. The shift to virtual selling isn’t temporary. A large part is likely to remain permanent, which means none of your sellers can coast until a “return to normal.”

Normal has arrived. Make sure you know what skills your sellers need so they can become comfortable with this new landscape. Your pipeline needs it.

Contact us for more pipeline red flags and ways to remedy skills gaps across your sales teams.

About The Author

Author photo Warren Shiver is a Partner at The Brevet Group, a management consultancy focused on end-to-end improvement in sales force effectiveness. Warren’s leadership has helped numerous organizations build high-performing sales teams focused on the right go-to-market strategy, disciplined sales process, and well-designed enablement tools.

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