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I have said many times that I consider myself extremely fortunate to have the job that I do. I spend most days working with smart people to solve real problems in a creative and collaborative environment. In recent years, I have got into the habit of taking a photo of the whiteboard or  flip-chart at the end of a session. It is my usual practice to ask groups what they think they have learned from their participation in a workshop. Of course, I am interested in what they are going to do in the immediate future as a result of having attended the session. However, I also ask them to summarise the key, underlying  principles that they will take away. Lessons that will be useful again and again in their jobs. These are usually recorded as short statements or aphorisms that we record and share post course.

Below is a de-duplicated list of lessons recorded over several years of working with sales managers (in many different industries) on the topic of managing sales performance. We use it as an aid to coaching sales managers and as a checklist for helping sales managers decide what a great performance really looks like, (hint: it’s more than a great set of results).

1. Learning ≥ Change or we are failing to perform.

Our ability to perform is always affected by external factors, markets change, customers change and competitors change. If the sales team is failing to develop and learn at a speed that is at least equal to the rate of change they are falling behind and performance will suffer.

2. Everyone has the ability and potential  to perform at a high level.

Managers who get the best from their staff share this belief. People tend to live up to our expectations of them. If we believe that staff are incapable of high levels of performance, we begin to act upon that belief and our staff adjust their performance to meet our expectations.

Your starting point should always be to expect a great performance from everyone.

3. No one comes to work to perform badly!

People under perform for a whole range of reasons but in general there is never an intention to perform poorly. Sometimes the best way to get a great performance out of people is simply to remove the things that are holding them back.

4. High performing people tend to adapt the job to suit their strengths.

Sometimes the best way to get a great performance from a team is to devise a plan that allows them to play to their strengths rather than to try and eliminate all weaknesses.

5. High performing people tend to share similar traits.

Attitude plays a huge role in performance management if you can identify those traits that make the biggest difference in your marketplace. Sometimes replicating a few key skills or traits across the sales team can have a huge impact on performance and results.

6. Managing performance is a balancing act between internal and external forces.

In many ways all the key lessons from strategy can be applied to performance management, in so far as the art of performance is the ability to recognise external threats and opportunities and adapting your sales approach to maximise your use of resources and product strengths

7. People generally know how to improve their own performance

A coaching approach to sales is often the most effective means of improving sales performance. Sales people who have the skill and self- awareness to develop their own performance are the most valuable asset on your sales team.

8. Everyone learns and develops in different ways

An obvious but important point. Developing sales performance requires that the sales manager is aware of the different learning types on their team adaptable in their approach to training and coaching.

9. Coaches and mentors need to be experts in performance as well as the product or service

Great coaches have a detailed knowledge of all the factors that drive performance in their field. They have high levels of insight into individual and team performances and are able to pay attention to even the smallest details.


Performance management is the art of producing the results that you need over the longer term. It is everything that you do to produce the result rather than the result itself.