The Research Says… Skill and Will Are Key to Top Sales Performance

I love data and research…especially when it comes to people. Buyers, sales people, and leadership are of particular interest. When new reports are published, I get my hands on it as soon as possible.

This is why I like the Objective Management Group’s tools so much. Dave Kurlan and his team approach sales with science. Their specific focus on being able to predict who (candidate or tenured sales rep on your team) will be a top performer allows my clients to hire less often because they have sales people who are getting “it” done.

Recently, the OMG assessments had a change in findings after scrutinizing the 1.1 million data points from completed assessments. They have now categorized some very important predictors into a “Will to Sell” category. Ding, ding, ding!!! I’ve been writing about Skill and Will® for years…and now I have very specific data to back these observations from decades of experience.

Although OMG publishes the list of 21 Competencies, all of which I wholeheartedly agree with, I know that busy sales leaders, business owners, and Presidents prefer a “short list.” They want a manageable list to focus on when selecting new reps and coaching existing reps. If the list is too long, it gets ignored, and the right conversations never take place. The reps also feel overwhelmed when they think they must get better at 12 things all at once.

So, I’ll make this list short and simple:

Top performers have Skill and Will®.

Skill: The actions and behaviors that can be learned, evaluated, and measured. These are specific competencies important to getting the job done well.

Will: The competencies and beliefs related to internal attitude and desire. It is the attitude for initiating the right activities; believing in themselves and what they are doing; clarity on their goals; and their desire to work through the emotional ups and downs. Some call this motivation. I call it the Success Driver.

From my 20+ years of working with sales teams, I know that top performers need both Skill and Will®. Now OMG research confirms it with science!

Why is Will so important?

Will supports and builds our Skill. Our Will is what keeps us going when we don’t want to. Will drives everything we do.

Will may seem intangible, but it is very much identifiable. As leaders, what’s important to know is that while you can impact someone else’s Will, you can’t personally drive it long-term.

Let me state that again…you can’t motivate and drive the actions of your team with pep talks, compensation, threats, and the like for very long if they don’t have the Will. It’s a twist on the old saying, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

If they don’t have the Will, they won’t find the way.

For my team, I’ll pick someone with Will over Skill time and time again. With the right amount of Will, they’ll ramp up and get the Skill they need.

Take for instance, Sarah. Sarah has good sales experience, technical knowledge, and a desire to please her manager. Yet her sales results are like a roller coaster! Her manager, Tom, works hard to try to get her to even out her results. The highs and lows kill his performance bonus, especially if two months of low hit in one quarter.

The root problem is her Will. Her emotional response to rejection shuts her down, and her inconsistent sales results impact her beliefs in her abilities, which in turn reduces her confidence and number of contacts.

Until both Tom and Sarah identified this root problem, and Sarah acknowledged that she can be her own worst enemy and committed to work on it, they couldn’t put together a plan focused on Sarah doing the tough work to increase her Will to succeed.

Note, I wrote, “Sarah doing the tough work…” Tom’s work is to coach; he can’t make Sarah more Willful. Now, Sarah has much less extreme highs and lows as she focuses on her personal Will development.

How can you use this Skill and Will® information?

When you recruit for new reps or need to decide where to “invest” time, training, energy, and money, increase your probability of success by betting on those people who have the Will. In the very short-term, you’ll be miles ahead of your competition.

Now, back to the data and research…if you like data, you’ll appreciate this new (and free!) Stat-finder tool. It doesn’t include any fake news, personal opinions, personal observations, or anecdotal “evidence” so nothing can be misinterpreted. Instead, you can see the average scores in 21 Sales Core Competencies for salespeople. They are sorted by more than 200 different industries, with every possible experience level and skill set, from companies of all sizes, selling to every possible vertical, and decision-making title.

Why is this important?

You can see how your own salespeople compare to the entire sales population and sales organizations in your industry. It’s very interesting and I encourage you to give it a try!

4 Success Drivers You Need to Know...and Grow


How do you strengthen this "Will" among your sales associates? How does the lack of drive impact your daily life? I discussed this and so much more on a recent virtual training event you can access below. It's valuable information for any business leader who needs to maximize performance of their people to grow their company.

Click here to access the replay.