Glaring gaps in the core sales skills set of the UK’s selling community have been highlighted in the latest research. Data gathered from among readers of the influential Sales Initiative Magazine has exposed failings that stand in the way of many organisations seeking to maximise potential in the expected upturn in the UK's economy.
The 2014 UK Sales Skills Audit designed by SalesAssessment.com revealed 73% of respondents fell down on “awareness of competitors”; 64% were not up to scratch when it came to “understanding the customer’s needs”; and 55% were below par in the categories “testing and challenging assumptions” and “keeping abreast of new products and services”.
“A shocking 73% of those surveyed did not have the skills to recognise the potential impact competitors could have on the likely outcome of their opportunities,” said
Andrew Dugdale, managing director of SalesAssessment.com. “Even worse, 64% of people surveyed did not have the skills to effectively understand their customer’s needs – and there were no highly skilled people in this area.”
The study, which was conducted in collaboration with SI, is the first time a UK survey has explored such a wide cross-section of fundamental sales skills in this way. The totally confidential audit was carried out in five stages, each covering a key group of sales skills, and kicked off in August 2013 with “customer contact” and concluded in February this year with “business skills”.
Participants covered all levels of seniority and experience in the UK sales profession, from a cross-section of industry sectors. They were drawn from a self-selecting group of SI readers who chose to take part in the research via an online assessment process.
The USSA has now been developed into an essential tool for employers and sales managers to assess skills of new and existing staff. It will also allow sales management to focus and target sales training where it is most needed. This is available exclusively at www.si-store.com.
The 2014 UK Sales Skills Audit looked at five universal groups of skills that SalesAssessment.com has identified as being essential to any sales-related job. These have been developed from those recognised by the MSSSB (Marketing and Sales Standard Setting Body) and associated NVQs. These core skills groups are:
1. Customer contact – “Skills are about generating initial interest from the customer in your application, product or service, and starting the process of creating rapport.” This includes four skill areas: spotting opportunities; using probing questions; communicating; and advising the customer.
2. Engaging the customer – “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 is made up of five skill areas: matching customer needs to products or services; awareness of competitors; understanding the customer's needs; testing and challenging assumptions; and keeping abreast of new products and services.
3. Negotiating and closing – “Skills required to establish the value to the customer of the benefits, often involving simple financial metrics, and close the deal.” Three skill areas are relevant: Influencing customer expectations; negotiating; and objection handling.
4. Information and activity management – “Skills required to work effectively and in an organised manner, with clear plans and reports, with the purpose of facilitating the achievement of goals and targets.” This group involves three skill areas: paperwork management; achieving goals, objectives and targets; and planning and managing activities.
5. Business skills – “Skills required to establish personal and company credibility with the customer for the purpose of realising benefits from the relationship.” This final group of skills covers four areas: self-management and professionalism; problem solving; exercising judgement and making decisions; and resilience and follow-through.
To download the complete whitepaper “Are Britain’s sales skills competitive in a global context?” visit: http://www.sales-initiative.com/USSA