Skip to content
Is What You Learned Wrong? Part 3: Measure Sales Behaviors Not Outcomes

Is What You Learned Wrong? Part 3: Measure Sales Behaviors Not Outcomes

In our last post, Is What You Learned About Sales Coaching and Performance Assessment Wrong?, we asked a tough question: Are you developing the wrong people with your sales training? With this post, we’re going to explore another big mistake in sales coaching and performance assessment: Measuring behaviors instead of results.    

 Mistake #2: Measuring Behaviors And Not Outcomes. It’s Not How You Hit the Ball But Where it Lands.

Successful managers have a common-sense approach to assessing a rep’s ability to sell. Instead of getting overwhelmed or distracted by 50+ sales behaviors, they zero in on the handful of outcomes that ultimately determine how well a rep can execute in the field. In other words, great sales managers have a different definition of competency than most. They measure competencies by customer outcomes and not by looking at what the rep attempted to do (i.e., questions asked, communicated prescribed benefits, etc.).

Let’s consider a golf analogy. A golfer’s success is based on a score, similar to a rep’s quota. But how do you measure the competencies they must possess that ultimately will determine that score? Some would say “look at their short game – that’s a key competency.” True, that’s like saying “prospecting” is a core sales competency – also true. But again, how do you measure that competency?

 The key is to break sales down into competencies that can be measured by a defined outcome. Let’s go back to the golf analogy. 

What if we broke down the short game into three competencies: chipping, sand shots, and putting? Now it is a bit easier to define and measure the competency. I can easily measure putting by number of putts per round or sand shots by how close the ball consistently lands near the hole. It really doesn’t matter how the golfer holds the putter or their stance. If the golfer consistently has a low number of putts, as a coach, I don’t have to get bogged down with all the elements that go into putting. As long as the desired outcome is achieved (i.e., the ball consistently goes in the cup with an acceptable number of putts), move on. On the other hand, if the putting number is high, then it makes sense to take a look at the elements of putting that may be causing the problem. Great managers define these as behaviors (i.e., stance, grip, alignment). This is the level at which development occurs. They zero in on the behaviors that affect the competency (or outcome). 

Let’s say a manager wants to measure sales behaviors and a rep’s ability to build value in a solution. Should that manager first focus on the rep’s ability to communicate benefits, identify barriers, or handle objections? No. The manager will certainly look at those behaviors if needed, but the key is to first look at building value as a customer outcome. 

For example, the rep successfully built value if the customer embraced recommendation and/or positively changed their opinion of the product/service/company and was willing to advance. If the rep achieved this outcome, they were successful. 

If the rep achieves this outcome consistently, they are competent at building value. The “why” or “how” really doesn’t matter. But if the rep fails to achieve the desired outcome, then we focus on the five or six key behaviors that contribute to success in building value (i.e., communicating benefits instead of features, handling objections, delivery) and diagnose which behavior is causing the rep to miss the mark. 

There are two benefits to this approach. First, the manager is able to quickly narrow the focus to the root cause of the problem. And second, managers will eliminate arguments with reps who are achieving results but don’t do it the company way.

Long story short: If they can consistently hit the ball 300 yards down the middle of the fairway with their putter, leave them alone.

Identifying Behaviors: Where Rep Development Begins

Once you see the correlation between competencies and behaviors, getting a basic understanding of what influences sales performance behaviors will help you determine the optimum rep development strategy. So let’s first take a look at the DNA of a behavior:

➢ Talent: Required abilities that cannot be taught or are unable to be developed (who you are) 

➢ Skill: Teachable abilities that require time and practice to master (what you are able to do) 

➢ Knowledge: Information needed to achieve goals (what you need to know)

You can easily see how understanding whether the problem lies in a talent, skill, or knowledge gap (or a combination) would drive your development approach. If you recognize a talent gap, you can ignore it and try to compensate with a higher level of skills or expertise (i.e., knowledge). 

If you recognize the gap in competency is due to a lack of skill, then you go to work developing that ability (i.e., listening or questioning skills). But if a knowledge gap is the root cause of competency gap, then the rep doesn’t need to practice, they need to study, and studying doesn’t require much of a manager’s involvement. It typically only requires accountability.

Once you have a firm grasp of how to accurately diagnose the behavior gap, prescribing the most effective corresponding developmental activity becomes much more intuitive, building your credibility as a coach, and more importantly, yielding tangible results from investing your time in developing your team. And, as a manager, time is a pretty scarce resource.

In summation: Invest in the right people, and then reward their behaviors.

Sales coaching is a critical activity that contributes significantly to an organization’s sales effectiveness. Recent studies continue to support the notion that going forward, organizations that develop effective sales coaching cultures will enjoy a competitive advantage in the marketplace over those that fail to address this area.

As sales organizations attempt to establish these coaching cultures, their primary barrier to success lies in the already over-taxed schedules of front-line sales managers who resist substantial investments in sales coaching based on a real or perceived lack of time. 

This time challenge is made worse by two common mistakes that are made in sales coaching organizations:

 ➢ Investing equal amounts of time and effort in coaching all members of the sales team without regard to their level of receptivity to coaching or their overall performance.

 ➢ Basing sales coaching assessments and developmental efforts on exhaustive lists of sales behaviors rather than a list of sales competencies. 

Sales organizations that design their coaching process to avoid these common mistakes will enjoy an increase in coaching effectiveness with a decrease in coaching time invested. 

Interested in learning more about how our sales performance training works? Check out one of our case studies or subscribe to our podcast, sAles with ASLAN, where we uncover the latest rep performance strategies while enjoying a cold one. If you’ve got questions, feel free to comment below or reach out to use through our contact page. We’re excited to talk. 

Leave a Comment


The best way to get to know us is to know what we value. If we teach it we live it, because what we do speaks far more eloquently than what we say. We’ll always choose people over profits, and we’re most fulfilled and effective when we serve. It drives our culture, frames our training programs and transforms the lives of the clients we partner with.

Stay Connected