Great Sales Performers Are Made Not Born - Part 7

In the last few posts in this series we've taken a good long hard look at how using the S.P.A.C.E model (Simplify, Practice, Apply, Confirm, Expand) can help you and your salespeople to apply the concept of deliberate practice and get really, really good at sales. Remember the factor that explains the most about great performance is deliberate practice. More of it equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance. In this final post we conclude our journey by exploring the final step in our four step process. Enjoy.

Step 4: Build Supportive Environments

If you believe in the first three steps, then your task, should you choose to accept it, is to create a supportive environment that nurtures constant growth. Motivation to grow through practice  is both intrinsic (comes from within the individual) and extrinsic (comes from outside the individual). You want to hire for the intrinsic and support with the extrinsic.

Here are some thoughts on how to do that.

  1. Participate, don’t abdicate. Lead by example. Actively participate in the process. Make  yourself at least an OK sales performer who keeps progressing, however slowly, toward top  performance. Your multiple responsibilities might cause you to spread your attention - to grow in multiple directions - and that is understandable. Nonetheless, you will find that the skills you develop in sales will help you in almost all of your tasks.

    Your ability to explore value creation opportunities with clients will sharpen how you analyze and choose your own business  priorities. Your increased communication and relationship skills will improve interactions with your colleagues. Your increased awareness of improved execution in the sales process will apply to other  processes in your business. And of course, your own capacity to bring in business will improve, which will give you more confidence, control, and credibility.
  2. Create a culture of personal and professional growth. Only hire salespeople who are willing to continually grow through deliberate practice. Ensure they are willing to commit to your sales success system. Increase their motivation by taking the time to understand and integrate what they have found valuable from their previous experience (keep an open, inclusive system). Make it clear that you will reward them as they practice and improve, and you will fire them when  they don’t; then follow through.

    Cut your losses on underperformers quickly (the ones who won’t practice or improve). You will be able to judge them based on leading indicators rather than waiting six months  to a year for the lagging indicators to kick in. Keep OK performers growing, and allow winners to thrive. Some top performers will be satisfied with consistent strong performance; that’s fine and your main job may be keeping them free of distractions. Other top performers will be as excited at the opportunity to become a great performers as they are about  the accompanying financial rewards. The mere fact that they can keep growing will be a powerful incentive to stay with you.
  3. Involve more than direct salespeople in the sales performance improvement process. Expose technical and customer support people to the sales success system basics. Let them deliberately practice, should they choose. When they participate on sales calls, involve them in the before-­and-­after reflection process; make clear how they should (and should not) participate effectively during the call.
  4. Align your business systems with your sales success system.

Salespeople exist in a system that influences their behaviors. Leaders, based on their beliefs about what influences behaviors, try to align the system to unleash the full potential of the salespeople to create and capture more value in the marketplace.

There are times in a company’s lifecycle where the system is producing the expected growth, and fine tuning is all that’s needed. There will be other times when growth is insufficient or the vision for growth greatly expands. The system needs to evolve; it needs to grow. Yet, as in most complex systems, there are many moving parts. And unintended consequences from major changes in one part of the system can have serious ramifications elsewhere.

There are several models to help you align your organization for sales success. Here is one example using the Organisational Effectiveness Cycle developed by FranklinCovey.

Step 4 - Great Sales Performers.png

People Paradigms

  1. Mission: Align the sales initiative to the economic and service mission of the company.
  2. Strategies: Align the sales effort to the key strategies and initiatives of the company.
  3. Results: Lagging and leading indicators:

    Lagging indicators: Establish the one or two most-­important metrics that must improve for the sales initiative to be a success. Those metrics must change from what to what by when?

    Leading indicators: What specific measures will confirm what is working and what isn’t, and allow timely rewards and corrections as appropriate?
  4. Behaviors:  Assess the current-­state behaviors and identify what behaviors need to improve, be added, or be eliminated. Identify the key beliefs or paradigms that, if changed or adopted, would most dramatically affect behavior change. Align the system to promote how we want people to think, speak, and act differently with customers to drive profitable revenue growth.
  5. Levers: Of the various system levers you can pull, how should you pull them and in what sequence or combination?

Core Processes

  • Core processes: How do we integrate the sales process into other related processes such as delivery, technical and customer support, marketing, legal, or finance and accounting? 
  • Information: How do we integrate the sales transformation into the information systems? 
  • Development: What is the best way to achieve the behavior and belief changes identified as most impactful? 
  • Rewards: How do we compensate to encourage the desired behaviors? 
  • Decision making: What changes do we make in who decides, what they decide, and how they make the decision? 
  • Structure: What changes in the organization structure will support the needed actions and behaviors? 
  • People: Based on where we need to go, what kinds of people do we need to bring on board? 

Simplify and Sequence

Not everything can be - or even should be - done at once. A major value of guided discussions is establishing focus and priority (doing a vital few things extremely well) and then bringing on the next choices in order of impact over time. Yet without the complete picture it is hard to make intelligent choices about what matters most. 

Do you agree? 

Great sales performers are made, not born. And the process to make them is known, practical, and has huge rewards for all involved. All it takes is focus, discipline, and execution of these Four Steps: 

  1. Commit to a sales success system.
  2. Use training as part of a process and not a standalone event.
  3. Engage in an ongoing process of deliberate practice designed and implemented by experts (SPACE).
  4. Build a supportive environment.

Did You Miss Early Posts In This Series? Here Are The Links:


Throughout his long and distinguished career, Mahan Khalsa has been dedicated to helping people get significantly better at sales, and he continues to be instrumental in pushing the envelope on the mindsets, skillsets, and toolsets that make getting better both real and never-ending, both for individuals and for organisations.

Mahan is co-­author of Let's Get Real or Let's Not Play: Transforming the Buyer/Seller Relationship. He is the founder of the Sales Performance Practice at FranklinCovey and the originator of the Helping Clients Succeed body of work, employed by many of the world's top companies and taught in more than 40 countries and 10 languages. Mahan has worked directly with clients to help create and capture billions of dollars of value - and to do so in ways that lead to greater trust, better relationships, and increased future value.

Mahan has three key beliefs that drive his passion - personally, and with colleagues and clients. The first, garnered from his extensive research in the science of expert performance, is that everything you need to know to be great at sales is learnable - you just have to be willing. Second, the amount you can learn and the degree to which you can improve is infinite. Third, what you learn to be great at sales contributes immensely to who you want to be as a human being.

Follow this link to learn more about FranklinCovey Sales Performance Solutions or contact Ian J Lowe via

Credits: Geoff Colvin, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-­Class Performers from Everybody Else (New York: Portfolio/Penguin Group, 2008).

Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

Dorothy Leonard, Walter C. Swap, Deep Smarts: How to Cultivate and Transfer Enduring Business Wisdom

Image Credit: Guardians of The Galaxy 2, 2017, Marvel Studios