Posted by Mike Carroll ● Mon, Jun 2, 2014 @ 08:06 AM

A-Player Only Strategy: When Improving Sales Impacts Other Areas Of Your Business

Top Grading Tug BoatWhat happens when you hire and develop A-player sales people and sales leaders?  Your company grows – usually by a lot and often very quickly!  As a sales consulting firm you’d think we would be thrilled when we are able to help a client achieve this result.  But if a company isn’t ready for this type of growth and the team members in other departments are B-players and C-players, this can be a formula for disaster.  What we’ve learned is strong revenue growth can backfire pretty quickly if the rest of your organization can’t keep up!  Here are some of the issues we’ve seen in this scenario:

  • Lead times increase significantly, making it 10x harder to win new business and straining relationships with current clients (lost share of wallet, lower Net Promoter Scores, and even lost customers who turn to one of your competitors to get what they need).
  • More mistakes begin to happen as B-players and C-players in other parts of the company struggle to keep up with the pace being set by an A-player only sales team.
  • A-player sales people start to get frustrated, particularly if their variable pay incentives are impacted by longer lead times and mistakes from other departments.
  • A-players in the other departments get frustrated because their B-and C-player colleagues are making them look bad and they really want to help drive growth and support the A-player sales team.
  • Managers get frustrated because they can see the train wreck that’s about to happen but may not have the coaching skills, tools or authority to make a difference.  And often they have not established a coaching culture and a coaching rhythm with their B- and C-players.
  • As everyone on your team gets more frustrated, key people start to leave.  And guess what, it’s never the C-players who leave (they will hang on as long as they can until you kick them out).
  • The rapid growth you were so pleased with becomes the minor uptick before a precipitous decline as the wheels fall off of operations and A-players leave your company.

Twice in the past three (3) years we’ve had CEOs call and ask if we could suspend our sales development program because we were driving too much success!  In other words, they were struggling to deliver on all the new opportunities their sales people were finding (some of whom we had developed and coached, others we had hired and then developed and coached).  In both situations the CEOs did exactly what they needed to do, they:

  • Identified the problem and developed a plan to fix it (hire stronger people, hire stronger managers, optimize key processes to reduce and eliminate bottlenecks, invest in training, improve communications, track progress).
  • Communicated their plan to everyone in the company, openly and directly (A-players will stick around if they see that leadership “gets it” and is willing to take aggressive corrective action).
  • Executed their plan with relentless focus.  In some cases this meant “facing the brutal facts” as Jim Collins would say – that might translate to investing in new systems or software, letting go of B- and C-players (both frontline and managers), or getting personally involved (one CEO rolled up his sleeves, walked out to the shop floor and said “show me the bottle necks, let’s figure this out).  That type of personal commitment and leadership by example is powerfully attractive to A-players who would probably do the same thing if they were CEO.
  • Came back to Intelligent Conversations once they had the operational issues ironed out and resumed the sales development program we had started so they could continue to drive good growth confident that they could deliver on it.

A-player sales people need A-players in every area within your company.  When you commit to an A-player only strategy you’ll find that you’ll be able to accomplish more, with fewer people, at a lower total wage cost.  By the way, we follow Brad Smart’s definition of A-player (the top 10% at whatever salary range you have for a position), so it’s not just a matter of hiring a bunch of 6-figure managers.  You can have an A-player office worker making only $30k/year if that person is in the top 10% for that salary range.

As you walk around your company, how many A-players, B-players, and C-players are in each department?  Could your company handle annual growth rates north of 30-40% year over year?  Where would the bottlenecks form?  How would they show up and when would you learn about them?  How strong are your managers and department heads?  If you don’t know or are not sure, or simply don’t like what you see as you take this talent inventory, please give us a call and let’s talk about how Jenny Rodriguez-Vargas, our certified Top Grading coach, can help.

Topics: high performers, Growth Strategies

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