What the Ski Industry Can Teach Sales Organizations

I have been saying for quite some time that knowledge; knowledge of markets, knowledge of trends, knowledge of process, and knowledge of customers, are differentiators in the world of sales. Great sales efforts are rooted in the ability to influence. The greatest asset in being able to influence is information; the more, the better.

To get more knowledge in to the hand of their sales people, companies should create Sales certifications. Not, product feature, function certifications or training but broader, market centric, business oriented certifications sales employees voluntarily take. The certification process would be hierarchical, with each level being built on the last with each certification level demonstrating a deeper, more complex understanding of the environment, the products, the markets and the business impacts. A certification process that is pass or fail not just participatory. We have too much of that today.

In the Ski Industry, there are 5 levels of Ski Instructor certification. Level 1 demonstrates a proficient level of the teaching techniques and the ability to execute the skills on snow. However, as you move up the certification ladder to Levels 2-5, a substantially greater command of movement analysis, on snow skills, technical knowledge, and instruction capabilities is required. All of which must be demonstrated on the mountain and in the class room. What makes Ski Instructor training impressive is it’s not good enough to understand it theoretically, instructors must be proficient on the snow and demonstrate a physical grasp of the techniques. Instructors must PASS an on snow and in class room test and evaluation in order to get their certification. With this structure many Ski Instructors get their Level 1 certification, a smaller number of people get their Level 2 certification, with even fewer attaining their Level 3 and only the most proficient and committed instructors possess the capabilities to achieve the highest certifications. Less than 1% of all Ski Instructors achieve the highest certification. These skiiers are unequivocally the best of the best. This Ski Industry certification process sorts the best from the rest and fundamentally improves the guest ski instruction experience. Pay, assignments, titles, and prestige are directly connected to instructor’s certification level.

The system creates a tangible hierarchy based on knowledge and actual on snow skiing capabilities. It’s not subjective. Either you can or you can’t ski certain terrain, in a certain fashion, with the appropriate control and technique.

What makes this system work is it is voluntary. Ski instructors choose the level of certification they want to attain.

I think sales organizations could benefit from a program like this. Creating a corporate sales certification structure would create an environment where sales people compete not only against quota, but also for certification attainment and the education, knowledge and improved capabilities that come with them. Organizations would have a tool for measuring sales talent and capabilities. Companies could assign accounts and opportunities in a more effective and efficient way improving sales

Far too often, average sales people get lucky with plum accounts and are heralded as rain makers while great sales people squeak 80% of quota out of a dog, yet end up on the scrap heap. Creating a strong certification process designed to DEVELOP sophisticated, selling and business skills, while ferreting out the average from the best will reduce cost of sales, increase revenue and provide organizations with an industry leading sales force. Measuring talent and sales capabilities by quota can get you in trouble. It is only one indicator of talent. Keeping the most talented and sophisticated sales people is critical in today’s corporate environment. Build a voluntary sales certification process where sales people can fail, that identifies the truly talented and provides a certification of achievement and you will create a world class sales organization.

Anyone doing this today? Have any of you gone through something like this? I would love to hear about. Drop me a line and let me know.