The No 1. Core Sales Competency Required in Covid-19 & Beyond

Top-performing sales executives are all exceptional self-managers, particularly in a crisis situation when individuals need to be able to perform despite external stressors. The good news is that sales teams can learn to self-manage, with the right support.

Take a moment to imagine what your organisation would look like if each of your sales executives were responsible for their own performance and took greater accountability for their results. How would this influence their productivity, output and delivery?

For many organisations, the impact would be sizeable, if not astounding.

In sales, we refer to these core competencies as ‘self-management’, a term that encompasses internal motivation, an internal locus of control and a high sense of proactivity.

If an individual displays these traits, they are:

  • Guided by a personal sense of accomplishment
  • Not a victim of circumstance
  • Personally empowered and in control despite external influences.

These factors combined give a sales executive an advantage over their peers when it comes to being agile in the face of change, and coping with negative external factors and personal stress.

In other words, these are the people who have been able to operate effectively and efficiently over the past few months, despite massive personal and professional upheaval.

The top predictor of success in competitive sales roles

The Self Management Group (based in Canada), one of the largest personality assessment companies in the world, has studied this phenomenon for over 40 years.

Based on over 10 million sales-specific psychometric assessments, self-management has been identified as the single most predictive attribute of top performers, regardless of countries or cultures (further validated in a study of 3 200+ cases).

More importantly, it’s the top predictor of success in competitive sales roles and is linked with an ability to manage stress.

This is not to say other competencies, such as the ability to prospect for new business, to communicate well, listen, build rapport, master EQ, and so on are not also important. However, it does mean that when these other factors are in place, you can rely on the fact that self-managers will outpace others. 

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

In times of pressure, such as economic recession or the current pandemic, it is typical to find that the performance gaps expand, and weaknesses are magnified. Bottom tier performers will tend to do even worse, and the gap between the top and mid-level widens, as the middle-level performers struggle more.

When a team is operating under normal circumstances, most organisations can get by with 80% of their sales force comprising mid-level and bottom-tier performers.

But how will organisations cope when 80% of their sales force comes under pressure and their performance backslides? 

Self-management is the new core competency for sales in Covid-19

While there are many factors that contribute to overall performance, self-management is at the heart of whether an individual will excel in a competitive sales role or not.

And now that our sales teams are working away from the office, self-management is a key survival skill for remote working.

In a Covid-19 environment, natural self-managers do not feel the negative effects of remote working, away from office structures and processes to the same degree as their colleagues.

Distractions at home and with kids, or the psychological pressures that may include anxieties over job security, personal or family financial wellbeing and even health concerns exist, but they do not cripple productivity or an ability to work and remain focused.

Since we know that most individuals are not natural self-managers, the impact of the current internal and external pressures caused by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns on most of the world’s workforce has been stark.

Multiple studies and reports reveal that stress is on the rise, with spousal abuse, alcoholism, and drug addiction on the increase.

Under the intense emotional strains of lockdown, working remotely without a clear office structure, and compounded by the fear and health concerns caused by the pandemic, individuals without a strong innate internal focus are vulnerable to stress, anxiety, and depression.

And therefore, it’s only natural that focus and productivity to suffer.

The Fix: A Self-Management Paradox

So, how do you uplift your mid -and-bottom tier performers?

Unfortunately, an organisation that wants to build a strong culture of self-management in weak self-managers will face a paradox, specifically that a strong, concentrated management focus is required to build both skills and transform behaviours over time.

Instilling a self-management culture across the organisation requires a mix of culture, systems and processes, monitoring progress and the right tools.

Organisations must supply clear structures and support around productivity and processes to:

  • Ensure sales executives dedicate the correct time and focus to the correct revenue generating activities. Part of this must include a robust time management system. According to research by ThinkSales Global on over 1027 senior executives in more than 295 companies, only 42.9% of sales organisations have formally documented their expectations for how their sales executives should plan their week.
  • Give sales executives direction around who to focus on. Organisations do not want executives spending most of their time chasing B and C prospects.
  • Teach sales executives to discern and prioritise ideal customers. This is central to building a self-directed culture.
  • Make sales enablement tools readily available, including 100% CRM adoption, which is key to tracking daily sales activities, prospecting and deal progression.

Driving a self-management culture also requires managers who are able to:

  • Use non-directive coaching methods to encourage sales executives to develop strong problem-solving skills. Our research also show that only 24.9% of companies rate their confidence as ‘outstanding’ that their sales managers conduct monthly coaching sessions to highlight gaps, focus areas and track progress over time.
  • Teach the concept of ‘managing up’, which entails being proactive about communicating with one’s manager, instead of passively waiting for instructions and being prompted for feedback.
  • Reinforce these processes daily to change behaviours over time and build self-managers from the ground up.

Finally, sales managers need management themselves:

  • We have seen time and again that companies with a strong sales revenue-focused culture and have a highly-invested senior executive team at the helm outpace market averages and competitors, even in instances where service offerings are on par.
  • Why? Because sales is driven from the top down. This means that establishing a strong cadence that shifts the behaviours of the entire sales organisation in the desired direction is driven from the top down. It also needs to be regularly measured, monitored and integrated if long-term behaviour change is the goal.
  • Unless these processes are executed effectively and dependably, an organisation will see no improvement. If a sales manager cannot self-manage, they cannot provide this level of consistency.

How we help

At ThinkSales Global, we assist companies in identifying key self-management traits, helping sales executives and managers to instil these traits, drive implementation and reinforce change through training, interventions and designing and documenting sales engagement processes.