Competency Framework for Sales Team

Written by: DP Mohanty
About the author: DP Mohanty has more than 25 years of work experience in Sales & Marketing both in India and International Markets and has experience in Consumer Durables, Lubricants and Building Material Industry. Former CEO & Member of Board at Alaf Ltd, and currently works as Executive Director with the Madhvani Group. 



Two fundamental questions that I have always encountered throughout my career are as follows:

  1. How do we understand competency?
  2. What is needed to become a more competent Sales or Business Manager?

This is not only important for individuals to know, but also important for Line Managers to understand so that they can coach, guide and mentor their team members well and make them a more competent and powerful team. From the various understandings that I have had, one simple framework that I have come across during my career, which I felt I would like to share, to understand this subject better. This framework is a bit generic and not only apply to sales team but can also be extended to other functions as well. Not only have I gained individually from this to reflect my areas of development, but have explained to many Managers, to apply this to their team members and use this to coach and develop their teams.

Before we discuss this further, it is important to make a distinction between Performance and Competency. Managers seem to vigorously argue to promote people within the organization, as if all hell will break loose and the team would come crashing down, if this person is not promoted. Most of the time it is the reputation of the Line Manager at stake, if he cannot promote his team members. We often hear the below laments from Managers.

“Person X has performed exceedingly well and should be promoted to the next level”

This is where we make the cardinal mistake of not doing a distinction between Performance and Competency. We need to make a distinction between giving a reward vis-a-vis giving higher responsibility. A good leader if he wishes his team members to grow up in their career needs to work on the development of their competency which would ultimately lead to sustainable performance.  This team member would acknowledge his Line Manager much more because one of the key qualities of good leaders is to produce more and better leaders.

Therefore, what is the competency framework that we need to know. On simple framework is as follows:


Remember that it a multiplication of various competencies and not addition. The reason being is that if one is zero then then overall competency gets affected and even if there is a high level of competency of the other two, the performance gets highly affected.

One of my favorite examples, to make my teams understand the above framework has been the example of three Carpenters i.e., Carpenter A, Carpenter B& Carpenter C

Let us define for the sake of this example competencies as follows:

  • Skill: How to cut the wood
  • Knowledge: The type of saw needed for the type of wood
  • Behavior: Hard working or Lazy.  Result Orientation

Competency Framework-converted-21

  • Carpenter A: Though knew how to cut the wood i.e., Skill and also had the knowledge of which saw to use for the type of wood,was not successful as he was lazy and not result oriented i.e., Behavior.
  • Carpenter B: Though knew how to cut the wood i.e., Skill and was hard working and result oriented i.e., Behavior, however lacked the knowledge for which he did not succeed.
  • Carpenter C: Though had the knowledge of the type of saw needed for the type of wood, and was hard working and result oriented i.e., Behavior but lacked the Skill needed to cut the wood and therefore also failed.

From the above it is clear that be successful at a certain function / task one needs to have the combination of Skill, Knowledge and Behavior. I am sure we have now understood why this is a Multiplication and not an Addition of the competencies.

With the above example in mind and an idea of Skill, Knowledge, Behavior, let us now look at what is the competencies within each that is needed for a successful Sales Person. The same is as follows:

Competency Framework-converted-222

To be successful one needs to look at all the competencies within each of the larger type, and hone the same. This also provides an excellent tool for Managers to evaluate their team and use this to coach and guide people to develop themselves.

This framework can be applicable right from the front-line Sales Executive to Sales Manager and even up to the VP – Sales. The only difference would be the level that is needed for each of the competencies as described above. As you move up in the hierarchy the competency needed would be higher level.For e.g., Relationship building for a Sales Executive could be building relationships with the purchase manager of the customer, being open for a discussion to create a win-win situation. Relationship at a Senior level would mean the ability to create networks and have an impact on the network. Networks could be industry bodies, capacity of the VP Sales to host senior industry / customer for a dinner etc.Similarly, Entrepreneurship at an entry-level would-be initiative that can help achieve one goals. However, at a Senior level Entrepreneurship could be redefining business models, building new businesses etc. Therefore, the framework remains the same. However, the level of competency that is needed at each level and the evidence of the same are different as explained above.

To explain this a bit more on the competencies and what effort is needed to improve on the same, please note as follows:

  • Skill competency comes more with practice. As the carpenter keeps practicing cutting the wood, he would learn to hone the skill, and would now know how exactly to cut the wood well. Similarly, as we practice more Sales call and keep reflecting on what went right and what went wrong and keep improving, we would have improved our Selling & Negotiation skills well.
  • Knowledge comes from our education, experience and reading. This is a competency which can be acquired and as I have seen been easier for me to gain than the other two. For example, Business Awareness can be honed by doing an MBA or attending training programs or reading about the subject and Industry or with experience in that Industry.
  • Behavioral Companies are a bit complex and comes with our belief and value system, upbringing, etc what we have. This is a bit etched and needs a bit of harder work to improve. Sometimes our belief system influences, on how we operate in this framework.

I hope this provides some framework and understanding on Competency and helps individuals develop themselves and also use this as a coaching tool to develop their teams.

Happy Selling!!!!

4 thoughts on “Competency Framework for Sales Team

  1. Very interesting , easy understanding and powerful tool to do a competency mapping. Proud to work under his guidance.

  2. Very well explained!!!! Everyone needs to reflect and see where he/she falls and self develop basis above.
    Hats of to you sir!!!

  3. Very educative and useful for Sales Managers .Am so proud to have worked with you and you have given me a very good training and coaching while we were at Alaf !

  4. Good read.
    Though ideally one could like to have all 3 i.e skill, knowledge and behaviour; in terms of reaching leadership positions in organisation, how would your rank these qualities in terms of importance?

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