We read a lot on sales blogs and in articles about A, B, and C players. Those pieces have covered various methods, learning approaches, and tools for transforming C’s into B’s, and B’s into A-players. Based on most of what I have read, I’ve got a different view.
I was a “C” Player, literally!
Let me start by reminding you that I had a first career as a trumpet player. I grew up in New York City and, after securing a degree in music, did the best I could perfecting my craft from what I had achieved up to that point. I certainly can’t recall how many hours I practiced, but I left the 10,000 hours they say are required for real expertise far, far behind.
My ultimate goal was to become an A-list session musician—a New York studio trumpet player. I could sight read anything, could play some decent jazz, knew a thousand or so songs by heart, and was reasonably well-positioned in the social/”club date” circuit. But when it came time to sit beside A-list players in recording studios, which I did a few dozen times, I quickly realized my future in that vocation was going to be limited, at best.
So I did something very difficult: I made a rational, calculated decision to give up the trumpet and find another career. Why? I just didn’t have the natural talent. I didn’t possess the traits that the players I looked up to had. And no amount of practicing would ever get me there. I saw that.
I found another career where I could excel, and have done fairly well.
I have a strong view about this subject
With the right approach, time, and support, you might be able to get a B-player to an A-level. But you won’t get a C-player past that C-level.
How can I say that? First, I’ll admit it’s a matter of defining the terms. We know that the best approach for recruiting and selecting, as well as ongoing sales force development, is through a foundation of job profiling/competency mapping, interviewing, assessments, and performance measurement. We also know that salespeople can, under the right circumstances, improve their skills significantly. On the other hand, the personal traits with which they are born are, for all intents and purposes, immutable. You can’t train or coach someone whose DNA prevents it to be intelligent, “left-brained”, resilient, driven, charismatic, courageous, passionate, curious, goal-orientated, or have any other of the many traits required for success in B2B selling today (depending on the specific job).
Sure, you can support C-players with resources, such as special attention and extra time from management, but empowering them to own and manage their territory and drive maximum profitable revenue from it will forever be a challenge, if possible at all.
So what I’ve done is determined that C-players will never become Bs. Again, my terms and limits. But a picture I hope you’ll consider.
What then is the difference between an A-player and a B-player?
In general terms, the A-player has more of the skills, behaviors, and traits required for consistent performance than the B-player, and their numbers support that fact. On the other hand, the B-player may have all the traits of an A-player, but not the all the skills or behaviors. (That’s where training, coaching, and reinforcement comes in.) Or they may have many of the required traits, but are deficient in some ancillary ones, or perhaps their required traits aren’t to the level of the A-player. Therefore, some B-players can become A’s and some are just not able to.
What does all this mean to you?
First, you’re going to have to figure out what skills, traits, and behaviors are required for success in each job category within your sales organization and map your existing personnel against that list, so you can formulate the appropriate development plans going forward. Second, you’ll want to redeploy your C-players into some other role inside (or outside) your company, over time. Third, you’ll vow to never to hire another C-player, because if you do, you’ll never turn them into what you need to be successful.
Photo Credit: © Jim Barber – Fotolia.com