High performance sales team

6 Key Competencies of a High-Performing Sales Team


Every business leader aims to drive a high-performing sales team. No matter what a company’s vision of “success” is, there are specific ways to uplevel a sales team’s output. One key strategy is to work with the sales team to optimize those competencies relevant to their sales performance.

In some cases, team members will come to the table already possessing these competencies. In other situations, managers and team leaders have an opportunity to help their salespeople hone them.

Competencies, Defined

Competencies are the behaviors and traits that differentiate high performers. It is important to understand what the most important competencies are, how to assess and evaluate them, and how to implement programs and processes to improve those competencies among your sales team.

While every industry has its own needs, there are sales competencies that cut across all types of businesses. Assessing your sales team on these competencies and developing them within your team brings about a positive and significant impact on sales.

Some business leaders focus more on aspects like “foundational sales knowledge” or “willingness to learn.” There’s nothing wrong with that. Yet, there’s great value in delving deeper into competency building. The following represent six of the most imperative competencies in the sales environment. Each applies to both sales team members and leaders.

1) Social and Emotional Intelligence

Almost every sales position involves interactions with customers, prospects, and individuals in different areas within your organization. As a salesperson, being aware of what is going on within yourself is essential for thriving throughout the sales process.

Your own emotions—basic emotions such as fear, hurt, anger, sadness, and joy—demand recognition. If you’re feeling fear (you may call it “anxiety”), you’ll want to ascertain and evaluate what danger might be in the current situation. Fear is the emotional signal of potential danger. You will want to analyze the risks that are present and take appropriate action to address those risks. Ignoring your fear or anxiety can be costly. Keep in mind, this skill of emotional awareness is relevant for every emotion you feel—whether you perceive it to be positive or negative.

As a salesperson, you also need to be aware of what is going on within your customers, prospects, or internal relationships. This may involve asking questions. It may require reading facial expressions or picking up on tone of voice, in order to get a sense of what the other person is feeling and how they are responding. Social intelligence also includes understanding organizational and team dynamics. For example, knowing who makes decisions and who are key influencers is critical to the sales process.

2) Relationship Building

Relationship building is an essential skill for sales success. While social and emotional intelligence is a key aspect of relationship building, this competency involves much more. It includes developing rapport with many different kinds of people at many different levels in the organization. Relationship building involves maintaining an appropriate frequency and level of contact with people to continually build a relationship of care and trust.

In many businesses and industries, relationship building includes forming those bonds in scenarios where you are a trusted advisor. In these relationships, people know and trust you are operating in their best interest—whether or not it serves your immediate interest. Often, this is the highest level of relationship to which salespeople aspire. In most industries, the quality of your relationships has a direct (and significant) influence on your sales success.

3) Customer Focus

Customer satisfaction is important to success in every industry. Customer focus includes actively listening to customers’ and prospects’ needs. It means giving priority to meeting their expectations and effectively balancing quality, cost, and timeliness of service. Customer focus also encompasses building, managing, and developing customer relationships with a long-term focus.

Salespeople with high customer focus listen to their customers, understand their perspectives and their pain, identify their needs, and respond appropriately. A weak proficiency in customer focus results in customer needs not being identified and thus not met.

4) Activity Management

Activity management includes setting activity goals and tracking key sales tasks to maximize productivity and achieve results. In the business environment, there is a correlation between sales activity and outcomes. The more dials, conversations, meetings, and proposals you have, the greater sales results you elicit.

Behaviors related to this competency include keeping track of daily, weekly, and monthly activity for each step of the sales cycle. It includes using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool or other process to monitor account activity in order to identify and prompt next steps in the sales process. Having standards and goals for key sales activity helps achieve revenue and profitability objectives. At the highest level, the activity management competency is demonstrated by modeling, resulting in greater overall team performance.

5) Business Acumen

Business acumen is the ability and practice of using your knowledge of the business environment to drive sales results. This encompasses many aspects of business: understanding basic financial concepts such as profit and loss, balance sheets, cash flow, etc., being intelligent about markets and the competitive environment in which your prospects and customers live, having a good grasp on your competition and understanding the value proposition you offer.

When skilled in business acumen, you can clearly identify the key success factors and risks associated with your clients, prospects, and their industries. You recognize the buying criteria your customers use in their decision-making process and understand how decisions are made (and who makes them). At its best, business acumen includes the ability to provoke thought leadership discussions with client executives so you help them to be as successful as they can be.

6) Penetrating Territories and Accounts

Outstanding salespeople excel in penetrating and expanding customer accounts to maximize revenue, profitability, and top-quality service to customers. There are many different behaviors and actions that contribute to the effective penetration of territories and accounts. These include:

using effective tracking tools such as your CRM
obtaining high quality market research
growing awareness of customer issues and industry trends
developing strategies for each major customer
identifying approaches for new potential customers

Relationship building comes into play here as well. Forming relationships at multiple levels within organizations is essential to the long-term maintenance of client relationships—which ultimately contributes to territory and account expansion.

Improving Competencies is a Win-Win for Sales Teams

By assessing and developing these competencies in your sales team, you can expect almost every aspect of the sales process to improve, resulting in more sales, better pricing, and higher profitability. If it seems like a tall order, don’t despair.

At the Human Emergence Group, we work with leaders to assess the gaps in sales performance and identify the competencies that are relevant for their business. Often, small adjustments are enough to optimize the sales team’s competencies and thus drive results. If you’d like to learn more about how it can help your company, or any element of effective leadership, we’d love to talk to you! Schedule a free consultation today.

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How to Develop Your Next Generation of Leaders

How to Develop Your Next Generation of Leaders

Succession Planning

When you think about the future of your organization, what do you see?

If you have a current leadership team in place, one that excels and in which you can trust, you might be feeling good about what’s to come. That is, unless those leaders are of an age at which they are thinking about retirement.

Who, then, takes their place?

The fact is, about 10,000 Baby Boomers retire each day. That number is expected to continue to grow until at least 2030. And that is why it’s crucial to focus on developing the next generation of leaders now, in order to foster organizational success going forward.

Challenges in Leadership Development

Many companies do not prioritize a leadership succession strategy. They believe there are other important initiatives to focus on. However, without effective leadership in place, those initiatives likely won’t succeed, at least not long term.

Even among companies that start to focus on the next generation of leaders, many do it by throwing their up-and-coming people into the deep end of the pool to see who can swim. While putting people in challenging positions to see how they will work with some people, without providing them the guidance to excel may offer a short-term solution. It’s not sustainable.

Another issue is that many people do not take initiative on their own to develop themselves professionally in ways that prepare them for the next level of leadership. This is not necessarily their “fault.” They may have progressed in environments where leadership development was secondary to other markers of success

Many individuals in our younger generations state that they have different professional goals. “Living” to them often means making time for life experiences as opposed to climbing the professional ladder. The Great Resignation aside, companies are seeing an increasing number of younger employees seek out the opportunities that better align with their lifestyle objectives.

Creating a Strategy for Leadership Development

If more companies took the approach of Major League Baseball, they would be in a much better position to develop strong leaders. At every step of the way, from being drafted to (or joining) a team to playing at the professional level, players are coached to their potential. Another example involves the Montessori method of education. Teachers give students the tools they need to navigate real-world situations. It’s an engaging environment, rather than the traditional classroom structure of teacher versus student.

At Human Emergence Group, we take similar approaches. In our leadership development programs, we help organizations identify certain core competencies among leaders. These competencies are a cluster of behaviors that differentiate superior performance. For example, initiative, influence, results orientation, dynamic engagement, communication, and team building.

Each organization will be different in terms of which competencies are most important to them. Some organizations are intent on driving results and need help developing and executing the behaviors that generate desired results. Others say team-building is their most critical competency. One recurring challenge is breaking down silos and improving cooperation and communication— – the competency of collaboration.

An additional and significant component of leadership development involves feedback. Feedback often gets a bad rap because it’s perceived as “criticism.” That is not what feedback is designed to do. Rather, it is the mechanism by which people learn where gaps in their performance lie, as well as where they have superior skills and performance.

Let’s say you’re a salesperson who is strong at persuading and influencing, but you rarely pick up the phone or email prospects. The latter is what needs development. Yet, that doesn’t take away from the fact that you’re really good at influence. It’s not enough to only focus on one’s strengths. You cannot maximize your performance unless you know what’s not currently working.

Leadership Development’s Role in Improving Employee Retention

Organizations that focus on developing their next generation of leaders also garner an additional benefit: improved retention. I mentioned the Great Resignation, which clearly was (and still is) a problem. How many of those organizations—the ones that lost a significant portion of their workforce—do you think emphasized leadership development? The people who left often did not feel valued enough to stay.

We have to start thinking more about what retention actually means. It’s not about holding more breakroom parties or happy hour outings. Retention is rooted in development, and along with development comes perceived value.

Dr. Judith Wright speaks about the Transformational Imperative and how every human being really wants to be who they can become. If organizations are truly committed to instilling that concept within their development practices, they will undoubtedly improve retention rates.

Organizational Culture Is Also Important

Sometimes, organizations need to work from the top down to optimize their development potential. In an environment where blame and mistake-based punishment are the norm, leadership development has no room to thrive. Empowerment among team members is nonexistent.

Those types of organizations really need to take a hard look at their operational behaviors before the real work of leadership development can be accomplished. This is not meant to be a judgment about those companies. In many cases, current leaders inherited that culture from those who preceded them. It will take a concerted effort to reimagine the organization’s behavioral framework.

Now Is the Time for Leadership

The retirement dilemma is not going away. Even if it slows, organizations will still need to determine how and when they will fill the eventual void. Those that take action now—and do it in the most effective way—have a distinct advantage.

If you’re looking to develop your next generation of leaders, but could use some guidance on honing in on the best way to do that, HEG is here to help.

Schedule a call with one of our experts if you’d like a free consultation.

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HEG social intelligence vs emotional intelligence - businesswoman shaking hands with new business partner

Social vs. Emotional Intelligence


Who knew the “terrible twos” would set a person up for their future existence in the professional world?  It’s a formative time in a child’s life, when they start to express social and emotional cues. As the child becomes an adult, individuals develop social and emotional intelligence—both of which have strong roots in their childhood years.

Social intelligence and emotional intelligence each have unique characteristics.  And it’s important to understand them both individually so business leaders, managers, and employees better comprehend how they work together.

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image representing how Human Emergence Group empower employees at work

Empower Employees to Drive Business Growth

Employee Empowerment

The concept of employee empowerment has many facets. Search for any term or phrase surrounding “how to empower your employees” and you’ll receive millions of online results. None of those approaches is necessarily wrong. Yet, traditional tactics that are typically used to “empower” employees leave room for so much more.

Using a strategy called open-book management, business leaders have an opportunity to empower employees in a unique-yet-proven way.

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Human Emergence Group professionals explaining the difference between coaching and training

The Difference between Coaching and Training

Executive Coaching

As a business leader, you are tasked with professional development for and with your team members. This process can take different forms, such as coaching, consulting, training, and mentoring.

All of these modes of learning are about the development of individuals. You deploy one or the other because you want to give your team members, or your team overall, better skills or knowledge, or help them develop behaviors that will benefit them in the workplace.

While these terms are often used interchangeably, there are distinct differences. Each serves a specific purpose, even if the ultimate goal is the same—or at least appears to be the same. And when you break down each mode, you can see how they uniquely apply to the workplace environment. So let’s dig a little deeper into each.

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