John Elway Would be an 'A' Player Sales Manager

July 6, 2012 at 7:00 AM

John Elway would make a great sales leader. Why?  He understands you can’t win without great talent and is willing to make tough decisions to win. Even though his quarterback had a good year, he realized Tim Tebow didn’t have the competencies to be a consistently great quarterback.  Tebow was incredibly popular with the fans and led the Broncos to the second round of the playoffs.  But Elway took a risk because he wouldn't settle for anything less than being the best.  He upgraded the talent on his team. 


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We have been doing extensive research with CEOs, Sales Leaders, Marketing Leaders, Sales Operations and HR.  A common theme has been communicated from each constituency.  The need to upgrade talent at the field level.  Also, we have found that many sales leaders aren't spending adequate time developing their B players.

Use This Template to Track B Player Development:

Download the Individual Development Plan Template Here

While the talent problem is undeniable, many of our clients struggle to put a solution into action.  Why is this?  I believe it is fear that changing talent will have a negative effect on the revenue stream over the next 12 months.  Sales is becoming more short-term focused as the growth pressure escalates and executive tenure continues to decline.  Resolving the talent issue inside an organization takes time.

Why C player talent survives:

  • Firing people is difficult
  • No consistent hiring process to weed them out
  • Measuring the wrong metrics allows them to hide
  • Lack of performance management systems
  • Expectations aren’t clear or are a moving target
  • The perception that a warm body is better than no body

Why upgrading talent isn't easy:

  • Hiring A players takes time, discipline, and process
  • Ramping new hires takes time and patience
  • Developing B players takes time and effort
  • Concerns regarding the impact of breaking long-term relationships with customers
  • Product/Industry knowledge is lost with a new hire

All of these excuses allow sub-par talent to produce sub-par results without fear of repercussions.

The Fix:

  • Always be hiring – you are never staffed.  The minute you think you are, someone asks if you have a minute to talk and leaves.  Have a bench of candidates to pull from.
  • Develop your B players - B players almost always represent the largest percentage of your team.  The ability to diagnose what is holding the middle performers from becoming A players and assigning activities to bridge knowledge gaps/improve capability is what separates an average leader from a great leader
  • Hire for sales competencies vs. industry knowledge – you can train someone to understand a product or industry, but you can’t train someone how to be persuasive or have tenacity.  These are innate and scarce.  Learn how to find candidates with these competencies and recruit them.
  • Fire your true C players – these are the people that have moved past their ramp period, are not producing, and continually choose to be unsuccessful.  How do you know if someone is choosing to be unsuccessful?  They aren’t doing the required activity, following process, and controlling what is within their purview. 
  • Measure the right things and hold people accountable – organizations can hide poor performance by tracking the wrong metrics.  Some residual comp plans can mask performance issues by allowing reps to live off past performance.

Recommended Action:

If you have a talent problem act on it now.  Define who on your team is an A, B, or C player. Don’t wait for 'C' players to change or hope they will have a great next quarter.  They won’t.  Start hiring ‘A’ players today, develop your 'B' players, and replace ‘C’ players to enhance your Sales Force Structure.


To learn more about sales force structure options, click HERE to review a recent webinar on Designing Inside Sales Organizational Models

 Inside Sales Webinar

Topics: Sales Force Structure, Talent Management

Posted by Scott Gruher

Scott Gruher
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