There’s a famous old saying in Maine (“You can’t get there from here.”) that applies directly to sales performance. It’s about the impossibility of finding a direct path to your destination. In other words, there’s no direct path to success. “Here” is your current performance level and “there” is your maximum sales potential. Truth is, you’d already be “there” if you could tap into the power of your maximum performance potential.

Improving performance is directly related to our discretionary effort. That is, committing ourselves to extra levels of effort, focus and drive to break out of our comfort zones and reach new levels of achievement. When left to our own devices, we often fall short.

Imagine we have five months to train for a marathon. Right away, some of us will start a training regimen and others will struggle to start at all. Some will even drop out of the race immediately.

Those of us who start training will achieve certain results (time and distance) based on our own expectations and effort. Each training run on our own is a reflection of how well we can mentally and physically compete against ourselves. But that internal competitive flame can only push us so far.

You’ve trained, pushed and made sacrifices. You’ve stayed consistent and worked hard to avoid distractions, and you’ve made some incremental improvements. But how do you reach maximum potential?

Six Steps to Maximizing Performance Potential

  1. Commit to accountability: Organize a group run (or, in sales, a group meeting) with anyone who holds you accountable to your goals. The value of the group is honesty, so you are not afraid to call one another out on lack of effort. Sounds easy, but most groups fail right away because they confuse honesty with conflict.
  2. Run as a group: Work together as a team. In a group, there is positive pressure to keep pace. No one wants to drag the group down or be at the back of the pack. This doesn’t mean there won’t be those who run faster or slower, but there will be an improvement in both individual times and the mean time of the group.
  3. Utilize checkpoints: As you start training and tap into your discretionary effort, make sure you’ve set milestones along the route to gauge progress.
  4. Visibility and transparency: Make progress visible and public to all group members. Competition is a great motivator to work harder and get to the front of the pack. Those who aren’t fully committed will need to make important decisions regarding their future involvement.
  5. Remember, increments of improvement decrease over time as you improve your conditioning. Making significant improvements is relatively easy in the beginning. It may be discouraging to maintain the same level of effort and see smaller incremental improvements, but being part of the group will encourage you to stay focused on the end goal.
  6. Hire a professional trainer or coach: Even the fastest runners (and top sales performers) benefit by using a coach. Coaches test your skills and make it hard to become complacent. You don’t want to find yourself looking around at the existing competition and start resting on your laurels. That’s the quickest route to defeat. An independent coach will keep the group members on track, focused and challenged.

The Road to Success is Paved with Practice

Whether you’re a sales leader looking to maximize your team’s potential, or a sales professional trying to break out of your comfort zone in order to reach the next level of performance – the following steps are proven anyone reach their goals.

  • Create a peer group to review weekly or monthly performance.
  • Agree to call each other out – be accountable and honest.
  • Be committed and consistent about tracking the two or three most challenging activities.
  • Agree on the checkpoints – when you will meet and what you will measure.
  • Hire an accountability coach to teach you the skills and discipline needed to be successful.

Remember, every marathon has a wall. The wall is just as much mental as physical. Most often the ability to push through the wall comes from the competitive environment of the race itself or the training commitment made to others. In sales, if you don’t foster a competitive environment or encourage deliberate practice of the difficult things – then how will you rise above the results you’ve already experienced?

I can’t tell you what your version is of “you can’t get there from here.” However, I can tell you that it is unlikely that you can get “there” alone – no matter how driven or focused you are, or how fast you think you’re currently running. It doesn’t matter if you currently make $50K in sales or $1M – there is still a greater performance potential to be unleashed.