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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

What You Need to Know to Effectively Grow Sales Performance


When my husband and I first moved to Dallas almost 25 years ago, I bought a Mary Engelbreit magnet for my fridge that said, “Bloom where you’re planted.” It was a daily reminder for me to make things happen in my life, wherever I was.

As a Talent Analyst, I am highly invested in helping others to bloom where they’re planted as well, working to maximize their natural strengths and help them grow as a result. This is fairly easy as long as the right people are planted in the right places. When they’re not, all of the nurturing in the world won’t help them thrive.

Two Key Growth Factors

So there are two important factors here, and the match has to be right for both:

  1. The flower being planted
  2. The garden in which the flower is hoping to take root

In the world of sales and management coaching, I am often called in to help when one of those is all wrong, so I want to take this opportunity to help you get this right.

You’ve Got to Start With the Right Potential in Order to Achieve Growth

Like people, all flower seeds are essentially “good,” wouldn’t you say? Some may be more colorful, than others. . . more hardy, more needy, more delicate, or even more easy-going than others. . . but with the right care, they can each live up to their great flower potential. 

But let’s say I want to grow the perfect morning glory. So I head off to my local garden supply store only to learn there are no packets of morning glory seeds left in stock. I’m impatient, anxious to fill the hole in my garden and confident in my green thumb, so I buy a packet of sunflower seeds instead.

I follow all of the directions on the seed packet, planting my seed in the ideal spot to soak in the right amount of light each day and giving it the perfect amount of water at all times. I weed carefully around it, eliminate all pests, and apply fertilizer as an additional boost whenever it’s needed.

What would I have to show for all of my time and effort? The perfect sunflower! Not the perfect morning glory. Regardless of how much TLC I gave the thing, I could never change the fact that it was a sunflower rather a morning glory, and it would be ridiculous for me to even try.

But I work with managers all the time who, with a hole to fill in their sales department and confidence in their abilities to coach and develop people, hire people who do not have the innate abilities for the job and still expect to change them into what they need! All of the coaching in the world won’t help someone thrive if they are planted in the wrong garden with expectations for success they just can’t deliver.

If I want to invest time growing the perfect morning glory, I need to start with a seed that has that potential!

If you want to invest your time developing a superstar salesperson, you need to start with an individual who has that potential (even if they are a rookie with no experience), essentially just a seed.

Give Each Person What He or She Needs and You Will See Growth

I’m also called in to help when an individual has all the right potential but they are not being nurtured correctly. Very few things frustrate a sales manager more than wasted potential—a highly-talented seller who just doesn’t perform.

Luckily, flower seed packets come with handy directions on the back. Clear and concise: Needs partial sun, frequent watering, and fertilizer twice a year. If only people were that easy to understand! Plant a morning glory seed but fail to give it what it needs to thrive, and you’re still not getting anywhere toward your goal of the perfect flower. Plant it and give it exactly what it needs, and you may have that state fair blue ribbon in the bag. 

People work the same way. You’ve gotta start with the right potential and then you have to give them what they need to survive and thrive. Some people need more hand-holding and guidance while others need more freedom. Some salespeople need help brainstorming for hot ideas and customizing solutions for their clients while others can do that part on their own. It is critical to know how to tend to each person you manage because their needs are going to be quite different. 

Hire the right people and coach them the right way and you will get the results you want. Take a short cut on either end, and you will only be disappointed.

Consider this your basic guide to growing great salespeople:

  1. Use a proven talent instrument to assess the innate abilities of every candidate in your talent bank.
  2. Take the time to do your homework before pulling the trigger—check their references, get to know their personality, get a feel for their natural behaviors, and be sure they will be the right fit for you.
  3. Provide very clear expectations before you make your final offer to ensure that your candidate knows exactly what success will look like and there are no surprises.
  4. Use a tool like the Individualized Management Questionnaire to better understand how each individual on your team needs to be coached and nurtured.

 Talent is only a strength when the fit is right.  

Topics: Sales