How to Find the Next A-Player

NeedleImageMany sales leaders ask me what’s the FIRST thing they should do to elevate the effectiveness of their team; train them up or move out the underperformers. Their initial inclination is to move out the C-players and then level set the team once the right players are in place. But that begs the question – what are the attributes of an A-player?

When creating a hiring profile, we need to realize there is no such thing as a universal A-player. Two factors first come into play – your industry and your sales force segmentation. Before we go down the path of letting anyone go, we need to understand how your buyers buy your solution.

• Do they have a long buying process with multiple decision-makers?
• Will they buy a solution over the phone / web?
• Is it an evangelical or highly competitive purchase?

From that understanding, I recommend creating a Best Practices Sales Cycle based upon the tactics of your most successful practitioners. We want to universally apply the stages and steps needed to put your company in the best position to advance every deal they are in. Creating a Best Practices Sales Cycle will also allow you the opportunity to create key performance indicators (KPI’s) in each stage to replicate the actions of our best practitioners. As an example:

Demand Creation

# First Calls with Decision-Makers
# First Calls translated into qualified evaluations

Opportunity Management

# Deals with access to Decision-Makers
# Deals with a Source of Urgency

Account Management:

# Accounts with Executive Contact
# Non competitive evaluations

If your sales force is segmented by demand creation, opportunity management, and account management teams – then we would only apply the pertinent KPI’s. If your sales force is segmented to reflect market size or vertical, then we would adjust the KPI’s as well. By creating these Key Performance Indicators, you will have objective criteria by which to create a hiring profile. You will want to have the applicant explain how they DID achieve similar activity metrics – not how they WOULD. From those responses you can begin to see if they are a good fit for your organization.

This is by no means the only factor to creating a hiring profile for an A-player. There is a lot of validity to testing for business and technical accumen, risk aversion, DiSC profiling, IQ and the rest.  But a word of caution – Sales people are at their best when they are selling themselves on a job interview. Far too often we look at W2’s as the mark of an A-Player – when in fact the skills that made them successful at their previous employer could have no bearing at all on your sales process. By understanding and quantifying the skills and activity of your best practitioners, you can truly find the hiring profile for an A-player to your organization.

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3 Responses

  1. Great metrics.

    I would suggest adding % deals/opportunities to order conversion rate. Filling the pipeline is one thing, converting those deals to orders is only true end game.

  2. I’m with Eric. Deals closed is the one metric that really counts. The other metrics are could be useful for bring the B players up to speed. If they aren’t meeting quota, it’s possible that they are lagging in one of these other “leading indicators.”

    If I were looking for the next A player, I would look at track record, but I would also ask questions like:

    – What do you do when your pipeline is dry?
    – What are some effective ways to collaborate with marketing? (Being a marketer this one is near and dear to me)
    – How has selling change for you in the last three years?

    These questions can help you find players who are “A” level in bad times as well as good.

  3. […] Many sales leaders ask Scott Miller what’s the FIRST thing they should do to elevate the effectiveness of their team; train them up or move out the underperformers. Their initial inclination is to move out the C-players and then level set the team once the right players are in place. But that begs the question – what are the attributes of an A-player? […]

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