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Leadership – The #1 Driver to Sales Performance Part II

In my last blog, the message was simple: Developing your leaders has more impact on sales performance than any other strategy, productivity tool, or sales methodology. Here my goal is to shift focus from awareness to application. 

In the next few blogs, I want to debunk some myths about sales leadership and share some best practices picked up through the years working with hundreds of sales organizations, both big and small. 

Let’s start with a myth that unveils the most overlook and impactful truth about what determines a seller’s performance. 

Myth #1: Coaching is the most important role of a front-line leader.

In the annual leadership survey conducted by Training Magazine, over 70% of the people surveyed stated that coaching was their number one priority. While critically important, my concern based on observing hundreds of coaching sessions is that most have overlooked the one element that determines the outcome of every meeting you will ever have with any rep: desire to change. 

Attempting to coach without first ensuring the seller’s willingness to change, is like coaching a person who just accepted a job with another company. What’s the point?   

If the seller isn’t willing to change, coaching is futile. You can perfectly deliver your inspirational message, you can role model the right behavior, you can hold a mini-practice session, and you can feel better about the future. But the one thing that won’t happen: better sales performance. 

The seller’s desire determines development. 

To develop a new set of skills, to break old habits, or rewire our belief systems, is hard work. And if the seller isn’t deeply motivated to change, nothing will happen.

When my youngest son was 12, through a bit of coaxing from me, he decided to join the 7th grade, football team. He was fast as lighting and had a lot of raw talent. And as a former football player, I was excited about this father-son adventure we were about to embark on. 

He was not. 

After the first few drills, he quickly decided he hated football. He received hours of coaching, participated in all the drills, and practiced consistently four days a week. And guess what: He never got any better. Conversely, other kids made remarkable improvement. Why? They wanted to get better. My son wanted to play soccer.  

Here’s the truth about skill development: You can force compliance to your CRM, meeting attendance, organization procedures, but you can’t force someone to develop new skills. Before sales performance can be improved, the spark of desire must be ignited.   

Therefore, at the beginning of every meeting, tune into desire. If you sense the seller is just going through the motions with the polite head nods, you spot defensiveness or experience outright pushback; put the brakes on. Shift your agenda from “here’s what needs to happen to hit your number” to asking a few questions to determine the level of motivation: 

  • “Tell me what you are thinking.”
  • “This doesn’t seem important to you, what’s up?” 
  • “What do you want to work on?” 

The goal is to uncover the unfiltered truth about what they want. If you can’t connect the coaching session to something they desire, you are stealing time from other reps who want to get better.   

Here’s the good news. 

In most cases, desire can easily be created by spending time getting to know your team members. Most aren’t motivated because they haven’t spent the time creating a vision for their life. There’s a famous study conducted by Yale revealing that only 3% of people write out their goals. This the heart of the problem. People aren’t motivated to reach a destination if the destination doesn’t exist. This is where every great leader begins. They all know something the marketing gurus discovered long ago: What you focus on will determine what you desire.    

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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.

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