19 April 2023 |

Driving Towards Growth

By Gabrielle "GB" Blackwell

Want to know a fun fact? 

Employees are 20% more likely to stay with their company over time if they feel like they’re progressing in their careers.

Want to know an even funner fact?

70% of employees would drop their current company like a hot potato for another employer that invests in employee development and learning. 

Knowing that people will skip, hop and jump away from places where development and growth opportunities are slim, it’s critical for managers to prioritize developing their reps.

Competencies act as your navigation system

Career and skill development are a lot like cross country road trips. You have to know:

  • Where you’re going
  • Where you’re starting from, and 
  • what checkpoints you need to hit along the way to know you’re moving in the right direction

On a road trip, you’ll likely use some kind of map to get you to your destination. In management, we use competencies for both hard and soft skills to chart the course for developing our people.

In some organizations, there may be 4-5 major competencies of the sales rep, while at others, it might look more like 10-15. Whichever number you land on, you’ll want to keep track of how proficient your reps are or where they’re lagging behind across your competencies.

Assist: Benchmark your reps’ proficiency across competencies about once per quarter. If your organization has Quarterly Business Reviews, you can schedule your competency checks during that time. Also, be sure to get your reps’ self-assessment on how proficient they think they are. This can look like asking them to rate themselves on a 3 point scale, and then trading off and you sharing how you see their proficiency level. 

Progress happens at the intersection of rep and business needs

Once you and your reps have assessed and benchmarked competency proficiency, the next step you’ll need to do is create a development plan to bridge any competency gaps.

To do this, start with:

  • 1-2 competency gaps that can be easily and quickly developed, and
  • 1, and only 1, competency gap that will take longer to develop, but will have a high return

By doing this, you and your rep will set yourselves up for early success (yay!), helping build momentum and faith in your development plan.

Lastly, remember the following:

  •  Any growth area that your rep isn’t bought into will feel like a burden to them
  • Any growth area that the business won’t benefit from will simply mean your rep has a hobby. 

Knowing this, keep your development plans focused on areas where both the rep and the business will benefit.

Assist: If you have a more senior rep who is at a high proficiency level across your competencies, you can benchmark them against competencies for the role they’d like to pursue next. Identify the 1-2 development areas that will help them perform better in their current role while setting them up for an easier transition into the next role.

Follow the rules of the road

Accountability is the cornerstone of any development plan. Whenever you’re rolling out a development plan, you’ll want to consider the following questions:

  • How do you know the development plan is working? Are there data points you and your rep should be looking at to assess? And if so, how often?
  • What are the milestones or key activities your rep must complete to progress the plan forward? When should these milestones or key activities be achieved?
  • When should you expect to see progress against your plan?
  • How often will you and your rep have accountability checks?
  • What happens if your rep doesn’t follow through on the plan?

Assist: Rather than a development plan being a top down exercise, bring these questions to the development conversations you have with your reps and get their take on how they would answer these. This will help BIG TIME as reps will have a greater sense of ownership since they’ll play an active part in informing and creating their development plan.

Now drive

With competencies to direct your reps’ growth and alignment on what accountability looks like, the last piece to the development plan puzzle is execution. 

To support your reps’ during their development plan, make sure you’re creating space and time in your one-on-ones for:

  • Progress updates
  • Roadblocks, and 
  • Additional coaching for areas where your reps may be struggling

Last Stop

As we close up on today’s newsletter, I wanted to take a moment to stress how important it is that reps feel a strong sense of ownership over their growth. This is why it’s so important that you involve them as much as possible in creating the development plan – so they can feel that they own this and be more bought into it! 

Alllssoooo…all this talk of competencies for development plans has me 🔥fired up 🔥 about how competencies show up within the context of hiring! Hint: The reason you get a bad hire is likely because you don’t know what you’re looking for OR aren’t quite sure how to identify if someone has what you’re looking for. Tune in to next week’s newsletter to get the 🫖tea 🫖 on hiring mishaps and how to avoid them!