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March 1, 2018

Competency Based Learning: Improving Sales Training Through Pedagogical Practices

Competency Based Learning (CBL) is a growing trend in education that you might have heard about. What is it, and does it hold any lessons for sales training?

What is Competency Based Learning?

CBL is a paradigm shift from the traditional education process, where graduating from grade to grade depends on a student’s ability to demonstrate understanding of pre-determined content within a subject. If the student can do this at a level of sixty-percent or higher, they graduate.

Competency Based Learning also achieves this content competency, while also preparing the whole student for success beyond. Graduation depends on the student’s ability to demonstrate mastery of the competencies and learning outcomes set forth by the school system, not just the content.

The Three Key Aspects of Competency Based Learning

  1. Outcome Oriented Structure:
    The development of any CBL initiative begins with a detailed, clearly defined set of learning outcomes and competencies. These drive the development of all educational material, resources, assessments, and rubrics. With these pieces in place, a proper CBL initiative utilizes analytics to measure student performance and growth towards mastery. This clarifies each student’s standing with regards to each competency, how to best support each student, and which students require additional support.
  2. Student Centered Learning:
    CBL puts the individual learner at its center. It allows the learner to self-advocate for what they need to succeed and learn at their own pace. Through the student’s understanding of the competencies and outcome goals, they can identify what they have mastered, and also what they still need to accomplish. This awareness provides opportunities for peer-to-peer mentoring and collaborative learning, as well as greater buy-in and engagement.
  3. Teaching The Individual, Not The Masses:
    CBL develops individualized learning paths based upon each learner’s mastery. Teachers provide the specific learning materials, assessments, instruction, and support based upon student’s mastery of each competency. Teachers communicate continuously to provide detailed feedback, support, and assignments to guide students down their individual learning trajectory.

Competency Based Learning and Sales Training

CBL methods can be applied to employee training and development to bolster the competencies of the sales force. Clearly defining competencies and expectations enables managers to understand each member of the sales force. With this knowledge, managers can move past simply assessing whether a sales rep is meeting quota and instead:
Determine the WHY behind rep performance – which specific skills drive a rep’s success or failure
Provide differentiated instruction, support, and training for each salesperson

For example, while Jake receives specific instruction on bolstering his relationship building, Erika works on the one thing holding her back, her mastery of influence, and Yassine builds his emotional intelligence in order to learn how to adapt the sales process in the moment based upon a deeper understanding of the client’s emotions, wants, and needs.

CBL enables differentiated training and enhanced peer-to-peer and mentor coaching. It provides greater depth of understanding of the sales team. It allows the sales leaders to understand why they get the results they achieve. CBL develops a different perspective that allows for the creation of a best practices portfolio based upon each competency.

With competency based learning, a company can boost sales performance by tailoring training to individuals, improve the ability to predict success in new hires by assessing competencies, reduce employee churn rates as well as improve learning, retention, and mastery of core competencies.

About the Author

Nick Rizzo is a former biologist and public school teacher. He now dedicates himself to helping ADHD entrepreneurs realize their fullest potential by leveraging their strengths and minimizing the things that impede success to build a better business, a better life, a Striven Life –

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