Define the levels of competency

Years ago, I was being coached by my mentor about the levels of competency. He asked me to describe the biggest challenge I was facing at that moment.

"I have people who aren’t closing sales," I answered quickly.
"Why do you think they’re not selling?" he countered.

I wanted to say that if I knew that answer, it would not be my biggest challenge. Instead, I told him that I believed these people to be incompetent. I didn’t mean this appraisal to be derogatory. Incompetence is not equated with stupidity, but rather a skill-based issue. In spite of my concerted efforts to teach and train, spending 50% of my time in the field observing and coaching these people, I saw no positive return. Some of them still would not or could not do as I had advised.

In response to my plight, my mentor proceeded to explain "levels of competency":

Level 1: Those people who cannot understand what you’re trying to convey no matter how you explain it, because the concept is simply beyond the realm of their capacity. This doesn’t make them ignorant, but rather unsuitable for sales.

Level 2: The people who do not show up on time, offer enthusiastic participation in sales meetings, or make an effort to memorize a sales script. None of these faults are the result of inability but of conscious choice.

So, as a sales manager, you have to ask yourself which level you’re dealing with here. If you have a Level 1 incompetent but the person has a great attitude, shift them laterally to another position that better utilizes the other competencies.

If, however, you have a clear cut, chronic Level 2, stop trying to affect change. You are responsible for the results of your team. You did the hiring. If you have an incompetent person, what does this say about your leadership skills?

As the manager, you must recognize that the buck doesn’t stop here; it starts here. In a previous post, I described the principle of de-hiring. Take a look. Then take action!

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