Only 16% of sales managers believe they have the sales talent they need to be successful. This was a finding of the 2018 Sales Talent Study done by the Miller Heiman Group. Once a new salesperson is hired, it takes an average of 9.2 months to bring them up to full productivity. There are two primary ways to get the sales talent your business needs to be successful: 1) Sourcing and hiring solutions 2) Employee development solutions.

Which sales competencies need improvement?

In order to answer this question we use the Sales Competency Questionnaire (SCQ). The SCQ asks the salesperson to rate their current performance on 13 different competencies on a 5 point Likert scale:

Exceptional strength



Possible improvement area

Definite improvement area

The SCQ consists of 156 statements (12 items per competency). Most salespersons can complete it in about 10-15 minutes. It also provides an assessment of a salesperson’s selling style: adaptive selling, relationship selling and customer-oriented selling. Here are the sales competencies measured by the SCQ:

Communicating and presenting

Expressing yourself clearly, giving good sales presentations, displaying charisma and self-assurance.

Listening and supporting

Listening actively to what customers say they need, sensing customers' needs, helping customers to express their needs.

Team working

Collaborating with colleagues, showing commitment to the team, committing to make the team a success.


Thinking about what you are doing, reflecting on your sales performance, asking for feedback from buyers.

Adapting and innovating

Identifying innovative solutions for customers, adapting your sales tactics and approach to the buyer's situation

Resilience and self-control

Maintaining a positive "can do" attitude, seeing setbacks as manageable, managing yourself under stress.


Planning sales activities, making sales calls and follow-ups as planned, gaining a reputation for reliability.

Achievement motivation

Striving to achieve all you can, setting yourself challenging goals, going the extra mile to achieve a sale.


Identifying the powerful buyers, getting high quality leads, turning prospects into customers.

Service focus

Excelling in satisfying your customers, customizing products and services, getting inside the customer's head.

Negotiating and influencing

Recognizing negotiating opportunities, trading and bargaining with customers, achieving win-win outcomes.

Competitor awareness

Understanding your competitors' strategies, dealing with competitors' advantages that buyers raise.

Product expertise

Showing that you are knowledgeable about your product line, persuading buyers that yours is the best solution.


Three Factors Emerge in the SCQ Competency Model

Strategic and business focus

This factor includes prospecting, negotiating and influencing, adapting and innovating, and competitor awareness. Respondents who scored high on this factor search for sales opportunities energetically, pay attention to their competitors, are skilled at negotiating and influencing, and are able to adapt and innovate. This factor is likely related to the concept of adaptive selling where the aim is to offer a personalized service to customers.

Work ethic and resilience

This factor illustrates the importance of achievement motivation, conscientiousness, resilience and self-control, self-awareness, and teamwork. Resilience and self-awareness are well-established concepts in the literature on emotional intelligence, and the above five competencies are featured in the Emotional Competence Framework developed by Goldman. According to Borg and Johnston’s (2013) concept model of the sales process, EQ is a key building block in sales performance along with interpersonal skills.

Interpersonal skills

This factor three captures the importance of communicating and presenting, listening and supporting, service and product expertise. This is consistent with Moncreif and Marshall (2005) who argue that high performance comes from satisfying customer needs (Customer Oriented Selling) and cultivating and maintaining customer relationships (Relationship Selling).

Individual Development Plans

The SCQ report can be used to create an individual development plan for each salesperson on your team. The SCQ report provides a coaching structure identifying sales strengths and development needs. The SCQ report and the development guide provide practical suggestions for employee development solutions.

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