Magazine article Talent Development

National Audit Reveals Sales Skills/gaps in the United Kingdom: Skills Development Priorities Are Identified after a Study Uncovers That the U.K. Salesforce Is Missing the Mark When It Comes to Sales Skills

Magazine article Talent Development

National Audit Reveals Sales Skills/gaps in the United Kingdom: Skills Development Priorities Are Identified after a Study Uncovers That the U.K. Salesforce Is Missing the Mark When It Comes to Sales Skills

Article excerpt

In 2011, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills conducted a survey of 87,500 employers across the country to analyze the skills of the country's workforce. The goal was to gain a view of the U.K's competitive position during the economic recovery.

The results show that many core sales skills are lacking. In fact, 56 percent of employers said their salespeople all too often fall short on customer handling, and 47 percent said job-specific competencies are missing.

To gain further insight on these sales skills gaps, SalesAssessment.com in conjunction with Sales Initiative magazine conducted the inaugural U.K. Sales Skills Audit in 2014. The audit's mission was to identify these missing job-specific and customer-handling skills.

Identifying the problem areas

The process began by analyzing skill modules from the current National Vocational Qualification curriculum, which was established from research conducted between 2003 and 2006 by the U.K. government's marketing and sales standards-setting body. This research identified five "core" skills that are critical for salespeople at all levels: customer contact, customer engagement, negotiation and closing, information and activity management, and business skills.

After these skills were identified, questionnaires were designed to assess each one. The audit tested for presence or absence of the core skills needed to succeed across different sales roles. The norm groups were identified by trials of 500 people, equally divided in numbers across North America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The data were then used as the basis for comparison against a random group of 125 salespeople from across the United Kingdom, of all levels and roles.

Customer contact

Customer contact skills are about generating initial interest from the customer in the application, product, or service, and starting the process of creating rapport. This includes four skill areas: * spotting opportunities--using innovative approaches to meet customer needs; communicating benefits; and understanding the customer's business

* using probing questions--understanding of information and what is missing or unclear; listening; questioning to clarify situations; and analyzing information

* communicating--presenting a clear message; listening; summarizing information from the customer and other engagements; and using language familiar and acceptable to the audience

* advising the customer--selecting the right approach; using the customer's preferred language and style; and engaging the customer.

The audit's customer contact module shows a very mixed picture: 10 percent of U.K. salespeople are very highly skilled in this discipline, while 44 percent of them are at a level that makes them effective in a sales role. Unfortunately, 46 percent lack these key skills. The communications element in particular represents a serious gap in U.K. salespeople's abilities: 54 percent of the respondents fall below the global average in this area.

Engaging the customer

These are the skills required to effectively engage the customer in conversation and start the process of qualification, with the objective of gaining an understanding of the customer's needs. The group comprises five skill areas:

* matching customer needs to products or services--knowing products and services; analyzing needs or problems; and matching the need to offering

* gaining awareness of competitors-- understanding the market; and knowing the implications of competitor activity on one's own opportunities

* understanding the customer's needs--understanding requirements; and clarifying

* testing and challenging assumptions--understanding customer assumptions about an opportunity; and questioning identified assumptions to gain clarity

* keeping abreast of new products and services--assimilating of new products, features, and technology; and understanding the benefits to the customer. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.