As sales leaders our most important task is to grow a stable and sustainable business.

Sounds easy enough, right? After all, as leaders we must be strategic thinkers. Therefore, as strategic thinkers we know how to plan and set goals. We study industry trends to forecast growth, customer loyalty, new products and future opportunities.

Satisfied with the data, we roll out a growth strategy of products, services and programs to our sales team, expecting them to successfully execute the plan and grow the business, only too often to find out by midyear the company is falling short of expectations.

Our first step to find out why always leads to reviewing the individual performance of each salesperson. The obvious stands out — some people are meeting or exceeding expectations while others are simply falling short. It is the next part of the analysis where most sales leaders make a critical mistake in looking for the answer as to why the sales team is not reaching planned goals.

Most sales leaders believe it is poor execution of strategy, often blaming the failure on the poor-performer’s sales skills or lack thereof. Are they making the right types of sales calls? Can they effectively communicate our services and programs? Do they have problems closing the sale?

Granted, these are legitimate questions and should be considered, but the real difference between top-performing salespeople and nonperformers is found in the mindsets of the individuals. Knowing the mindsets of the individuals on your sales team should be well-understood long before any skills training or growth strategy can be implemented.

For more than four decades, famed Stanford University researcher Dr. Carol Dweck studied behavioral self-conceptions of children in the classroom and how they influence actions. Through her observations, Dweck determined people exhibit one of two types of mindsets, growth-minded or fixed-minded. The success of your sales team is greatly impacted by the type of mindsets they have.

Mindset determines how each of us goes about meeting our everyday challenges and plays a key role in problem-solving. It is the one thing that allows us to think BIG or not. And to be a top performer, thinking BIG is a must. Mindset is about the level of risk and self-exposure one is willing to take and the level of security desired. Simply put, it is how we manage our fear of failure.

In her study, Dweck observed distinct differences between growth-minded and fixed-minded children. Growth-minded children displayed thinking attitudes that were big and bold, while fixed-minded children placed artificial limits on thinking attitudes that tended to avoid failure.

Key observations showed growth-minded individuals employed better learning strategies, were more independent, displayed greater positive effort and achieved more success. In their quest for maximum potential, they look at failure as merely a bump in the road, an experience they can file away and use later as knowledge in their personal growth development. In contrast, fixed mindsets fear failure and the perception it lends to their peers, causing them to set artificial limits on their thinking, goal setting and risk taking — all leading to a performance level of mediocrity or safe status quo.

So before that next BIG strategic growth plan is rolled out, the mindsets of the sales team roster should be known by the sales leadership. Top performers demonstrate characteristics such as continual self-improvement through books or videos. They tend to speak strategically with leadership about goal setting and how to accomplish tasks at hand. They do not flinch when given an aggressive growth goal because they are not afraid of thinking big. Recognizing this should give a better picture of who the fixed-minded individuals are on your sales team.

But there is good news for fixed-minded individuals. Dweck’s study concludes that mindsets do and can change, therefore giving leadership the opportunity to coach and develop a complete team of top performers who can and will reach or exceed expectations.

In short, knowing your sales team’s mindset is the best plan to grow a stable and sustainable business.

This article was originally titled “Know thy sales mindset” in the May 2016 print edition of Supply House Times.