The CLIMB System of Peak Achievement in Sales

December 29, 2014

For almost a decade, I committed myself to achieving my vision of climbing the Seven Summits, the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents. I trained year-round and spent all of my annual vacations pursuing this goal with single-minded determination. Along the way, my climbing experiences proved to be a rich source of inspiration, bringing me new skills and perspectives that I could leverage in climbing the corporate ladder in sales.

In our new book, Conquering the Seven Summits of Sales, my co-author John Waechter and I draw upon our climbing experiences to demonstrate how sales professionals can overcome their perceived limitations and reach previously unimaginable heights of success. One of the most important lessons we learned on our journey to becoming top performers is that every meaningful achievement begins with a well defined vision and a set of clearly defined goals. In our book, we provide a structured approach to goal setting – our CLIMB system – that is both disciplined and focused. This is your blueprint to success in sales and in all aspects of your personal and professional lives.

Concise. Your goals must be so specific and quantifiable that you can write them down easily. While training for Everest, my goals were 29,035 feet and $300 million. The first is the height of Mount Everest. The second was my sales team’s revenue objective for that year. Stop and think for a moment. What would be the greatest personal achievement you could imagine for yourself? What would be the greatest professional achievement?

Levelheaded. Charting realistic goals begins with self-assessment. Take a moment now to reflect on three basic questions.

  1. What is preventing you from achieving your business goals?
  2. What barriers are standing between you and your dreams?
  3. What goals must you achieve to overcome them?

As you reflect, you may realize that some of the obstacles standing between you and your business goals have very little to do with business. Consider every aspect of your life that might be preventing you from becoming a top performer.

Integrated. Your vision must drive your activity. When I decided to climb Everest, my biggest challenge was meeting the demands of my career in sales leadership while making time for the arduous, year-long training regimen that would prepare me physically and mentally to reach the summit. The key is to jettison everything that does not lead directly to fulfilling your vision. As a sales leader, I helped my team focus exclusively on activities that would help them reach their revenue objectives: prospecting, calling on clients, and working the sales cycle. To prepare for Everest, I spent every lunch hour for a year climbing up and down the stairs of my high-rise office building with a heavy pack strapped to my back. When vision drives activity, your priorities quickly fall into place.

Measure the mountain. This means holding yourself accountable. Metrics allow us to evaluate results and make necessary adjustments and course corrections. In climbing, we keep journals. In sales, we use dashboards and scorecards to stay on track. Don’t fool yourself. If you fall short one day, then you must double up the next.

Big. While goals need to be attainable, they must also stretch you to the limit and inspire you to achieve something that you deeply care about. If not, you’ll give up too easily when you encounter obstacles. Aim too low and you’ll become a complacent mid-tier performer. Aim too high and you’ll fall short and become discouraged. But if you realistically assess yourself and the scope of the opportunity before you, our CLIMB system will lead you to heights of achievement you never thought possible.

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Your resilience and determination can lead you to the top of the sales mountain. Perfect your sales skills with these AMA resources and seminars.

About The Author

Susan Ershler is co-author of the new book, Conquering the Seven Summits of Sales: From Everest to Every Business, which illustrates the principles that lead to high achievement with anecdotes drawn from her sales and climbing careers. For more than two decades, Susan led sales organizations at Verizon, CenturyLink, United Technologies and FedEx, setting revenue records and winning awards while climbing the world’s highest peaks. In 2002, she and her husband, Phil, became the first couple in history to climb the Seven Summits, a journey they shared in their book, Together on Top of the World. Today, Susan is a renowned keynote speaker, inspiring business professionals to push past perceived boundaries to achieve their most ambitious dreams and helping Fortune 500 companies transform their sales organizations into dynamic forces for revenue growth. For more information, visit

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