Need to build a high performance sales culture quickly? Have a desire for sustainable sales results? If you are like me, you understand mediocre sales results will implode your business given our current economic environment and competition being so fierce. Additionally, there are far too many opportunities to be stumbling with inconsistent sales performance. I have been fortunate to have led successful 6 - 12 month turnaround crusades of a few multi-billion dollar sales forces, while simultaneously improving the levels of associate and customer satisfaction. During those experiences I have discovered 6 simple steps that will enable any mediocre sales team to skyrocket to true Sales Force status in a relatively short period of time.

Step 1: Have the Right People on the Bus

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins outlines this concept perfectly. It is absolutely essential to have the right members on your team to execute. If an existing sales team is already in place, it can become a challenge to determine if you have the right players. An easy question to ask in this situation is “If the position was open, would I hire this person?” If no, you have your answer, now a decision has to be made on how to reposition.

Currently hiring?

It is vital to hire the right people the first time. The cost of a bad sales hire is now costing organizations over $100,000/year*. Identify the necessary sales behaviors (Energy, Sales Initiative, etc) to be effective in the sales role and be prudent to hire for a good fit. For information on a cost effective, highly efficient selection tool visit

Step 2: Define the Sales Activities that lead to Results

As a consultant, I’ve witnessed many sales teams miss the mark when creating sales goals. Most teams create goals without defining the sales activities that will assist in achieving them. You may have witnessed it – the Sales Manager receives the call from Headquarters about his/her teams’ current sales results along with a message that the team needs to “pick it up”. The Sales Manager, being a Manager not a Leader, walks to the floor of the Sales Team and conveys the command – “Our sales results are not where they need to be we need to pick it up!”

What does “pick it up” really mean? The Sales Team is left to their own interpretations.

We commonly refer to this as the “Pain Chain”- the front line sales team feels the pinch from a level above without any specific direction on the “how to” in order to achieve desired sales results.

The key is having an understanding of the specific sales activities that drive results. In the typical sales environment it usually breaks down to 3 simple activities: Attempts, Contacts and Appointments.

*Victor Wesley Report 2006
Attempts are defined as actual attempts to initiate the sales process which usually occur in forms telephone calls, presentations or knocking on doors.

Contacts are actual conversations in which a Sales Rep is able to initiate the sales process.

Appointments are actual meetings established to advance the sales process and/or ask for the business.

Not sure on the activities?

Solicit input from the Top Performers on the front-line, doing this also fosters buy-in which is essential.

Step 3: Manage the Activities, Not the Results

Another common mistake sales teams make when they are too focused on the goal is not paying enough attention to the activity levels. Once the appropriate sales activities have been defined, there needs to be a clear understanding of the correlation of them to achieve the desired sales results. We refer to this as the Science of Sales.

For years you have heard sales being a “numbers game” which is true. However High Performance Sales is a “Managed numbers game”. The Science of Sales is essentially the sequential manner of sales activities that lead to the 1 closed deal. For example, 100 Attempts/day leads to 10 contacts/day which convert into 3 Appointments. Of the 3 appointments a Sales Representative is likely to close 1 deal. So the formula for success becomes:

100  10  3 1

Each formula will be different for each Sales Representative however leveraging this data will allow the Sales Manager to pinpoint the areas in which a Sales Rep can improve, hence enabling and encouraging them to “pick it up”.

In addition, we’ve discovered by focusing on the sales activities Sales Representatives have more sales energy.


Being too focused on the volatility of results causes the Sales Team to ride a very draining and emotional roller coaster, which eventually causes the sales energy to fall off a cliff. The outcomes are a negative impact on overall results and an increase in expenses to hire motivational speakers to temporarily pump up a team in desperate need of a lift.

I’ve found that if sales representative channels their energy into achieving the specific metrics of their sales formula and improve on the key ratios (Attempts:Contacts or Contacts:Appointments) they tend to have a better sense of accomplishment and avoid the emotional roller coaster. Therefore, creating more sales energy

Keep the team pumped – manage the activities, not the results!
Step 4: Recognize Immediately, Sales is a Contact Sport

The most important component to the formula outlined in Step 3 is the ability to make the Contacts. High contact ratios are the common thread to all High Performance Sales Forces. These teams are comprised of people who have a high degree of Sales Initiative and enjoy initiating contact with prospects and buyers. Bottom line, they reach more people. Poor performing teams are hindered with salespeople who contain emotional or behavioral barriers and do not reach enough people. If there are people on your team who do not have sales initiative, reposition them, they are in the wrong job and are setup for failure. As you reload, be sure to replace with sales representatives who have strong Sales Initiative because these are the people that will generate the contacts for your business. Going back to Step 1 – You have to have the right people on the bus.


In our research we have discovered that the successful sales representatives with strong sales initiative are confident and consistent at initiating sales contacts.

How is Sales Initiative measured?

Sales Initiative is one of the 21 proven behaviors in sales productivity. It is often confused with a “Type A” or “High D” personality in regard to sales. However, in our research there is no proven correlation between personality and sales productivity. High Performance Sales is about behavior and the easiest way to measure Sales Initiative is through a behavior assessment that effectively measures it. For more information, visit

Step 5: Learn What Drives the Sales Team’s Behavior

As stated before, sales is about behavior, not personality. To get the most out of your team it is vital to know as much as possible about each sales representative’s behavior. Discover what really makes them tick. As salespeople, we have natural “selling styles” that we tend to impose on our prospects and buyers. Dr. Dave Barnett, a Ph.D in Behavior Science, has 30+ years of sales and behavior research. In his research he discovered, as salespeople our selling styles are derived from our behavior. Our behaviors are derived from basic “life needs”. Having a clear understanding of the “life need” allows good Sales Leaders/Coaches to modify behavior and ultimately selling styles. For example:

Let’s say you have a sales representative with similar behavior to that of Terrell Owens or Paris Hilton on your team. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume this individual behaves in such a way that insists on a high degree of recognition, essentially their “life need” is the need for attention. Due to the nature of their life need, they may tend to do more talking, (mostly about themselves) and less listening in their sales interactions causing them to close less and struggle more. Since, not every prospect’s behavior (discussed in Step 6) is compatible with theirs.

A good sales coach will know how to address the sales representative’s life need. In addition, the sales representative will learn how to adjust their selling style accordingly and not impose it on everyone they encounter. Therefore, enabling the sales representative to “balance” their selling style and appeal to a broader audience.

Step 6: Match the Sales Team Behavior to That of Your Demographic

Ever wonder why certain “good” teams struggle? I did some consulting work with a particular company who had a high potential team located in a great area. However the results were consistently poor quarter after quarter. Prior to my arrival, the company supposedly tried everything from replacing the leadership to upgrading office space with no proven impact on results. After doing some research we discovered the office and its demographic were in direct contradiction of one another. Allow me to explain…

In Step 5, we discussed how selling styles can be derived from the “life needs” of the sales representatives.

Care to guess who else has life needs?

That’s right – Buyers and Prospects, “Buying Behavior” is derived from their life needs. Buyers and Prospects tend to buy from those they trust and are comfortable with. The easiest way to build comfort and trust is to address someone’s life need. Some amateur salespeople and sales trainers may refer to this as “mirroring”, however the high performance professionals know it goes deeper.

High performance salespeople know how to Assess, Adjust and Align:
• Assess the “Buying Behavior”
• Adjust their “Selling Style”
• Align their behavior with that of the customer’s, essentially addressing the customer’s life need

Think about it…

Ever have a sales interaction when you, the sales person, and the prospect encountered an immediate connection as if you were old friends communicating with one another like old times. The closing of the deal was effortless, right? Chances are your “selling style” was naturally compatible with the customer’s “buying behavior”. The customer may have even indicated – “There something different about you.”

Ever have a sales interaction when you were not able to connect? For whatever reason, you and that prospect just could not foster a relationship. Something went wrong and you could not pinpoint exactly what it was. Chances are your “selling style” and the prospects “buying behavior” we in direct conflict with one another and neither of you yielded to the other. The “mirroring” approach will only make this worse. We call this dynamic a “direct contradiction”, which is what the company mentioned in Step 5 was experiencing. The office was in direct conflict with its demographic and changes needed to occur, quickly and they did...

Through attrition the team was able to hire new salespeople. However, prior to making offers the behaviors were assessed to ensure they were compatible to the demographic. In addition, the team was trained on the 21 proven sales behaviors that impact sales productivity mentioned in Step 4. In less than 6 months, the team moved from the bottom to the top, ranked 2nd in the company in sales performance and 1st in customer satisfaction.

Using this 6 Step approach will enable you to convert your sales team into a High Performance (Sustainable) Sales Force. Make it Happen!

Author's Bio: 

Rod McKinnis, founder of The Mckinnis Consulting Group, is the authority in Sales Management Training. To learn more about accelerating your sales results and reducing your hiring costs visit www.salesissimple.

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