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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Leadership Development Through the Eyes of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leadership_Development_through_the_eyes_of_Ralph_Waldo_Emerson_dh_11.20.13“Every artist was first an amateur”, Ralph Waldo Emerson. This quote perfectly describes how anyone achieves greatness in sales—or in life. You can't be a great artist, unless you have artistic talent. But we all start as amateurs, even in areas where we have natural ability. We need to develop our talents so that they become strengths.

To become an extraordinary leader, you must appreciate the importance of natural talent and also the power of developing that talent. I have seen managers who have little regard for the importance of sales talent. They tend to think they can hire anyone and just show them what to do and if that person works hard, they will be successful. That's not true.  Not if you are trying to shoot for excellence. It works to some degree, if you are shooting for average or slightly above average. Conversely, you can't hire great talent and then do nothing to develop them and expect greatness.  Again, you will likely get average.

This is the fourth and final blog in a series of blogs designed to help you plan for the coming year. This series is built around our Performance Prism. This prism is designed to help you break down the components or disciplines that lead to strong sales performance—in the same way that a prism breaks a light beam into  its various colors. Breaking sales into the components that make up success will help you to spot opportunities for improvement.  

The four components of the Performance Prism are: 

  1. Goals & Values
  2. Structure & Process
  3. Metrics & Accountability
  4. Talent & Skill
If you haven't done so already, you should go back and read the blogs on Goals & Values, Structure & Process and Metrics & Accountability. Here, we are dealing with Talent & Skill. Once you have clarity on your goals and the values that guide you as you pursue them, the best structure and process for the goals you seek, and the most essential metrics and accountability measures, you can turn to the talents and skills you need to align with the rest of what you have decided in your prism analysis.

To help you consider talents and skills for the year ahead, start with these questions:


  • Are you convinced that your sellers have the talents you need to do the job?
  • Is it easy for you to find new salespeople?
  • What percent of your new hires in the last two years are still with the company and performing well?
  • What do your salespeople need to get better at?
  • Is training the answer or some other action or intervention?
  • Do you have a highly effective onboarding process for salespeople?
  • Is there essential training your managers need?


To spot the top opportunities for improvement, download our Thirty Provocative Questions. This simple tool will show you where to turn your focus.

30 provocative questions