Protect Your "A" Players

Protect Your A Players

If sales were a boxing match, you could equate the second quarter of 2020 to a seasoned heavyweight champion who has been knocked to the canvas multiple times, and each time, continues to pull themselves up.

Bruised, battered, and weakened from the battle, our champion still has the will to continue the match – heck, they may even come back to win the bout.

The difference between victory and defeat for our battle-worn champ is their team – those around them that, through will, gumption, and experience, know the strategy needed to go for the knockout punch.

As you, a sales leader, survey your team for the final rounds of this COVID-19 fight, you likely have a sense of who your “A” players are – those top-performing sales professionals who you want at ringside; and those “B” and “C” players who are still in need of a few pointers back in the training gym.

Clearly, it’s never been more critical to retain your top sales performers right now. Though cash-strapped organizations may be tempted to consider across-the-board pay cuts and restructuring of incentives, it can be a fool’s errand to be penny wise with your sales lifeblood.

Plus, there are always other companies who want to compete for your best talent: A Harvard Business Review article noted that, across the past three recessions, 9 percent of companies made strategic investments, including human capital, and came out better as a result of progressive thinking.

So how can you slap some “golden gloves” on your top performers and ensure their ongoing satisfaction so they will continue to headline your sales organization?

  • Guarantee their 2020 compensation based on 2019 numbers: Most businesses understand that the first half of 2020 is an anomaly unlike any we’ve experienced. Protecting your top performers’ downside can go a long way toward reassuring skittish nerves. If you cannot at least guarantee to match their 2019 comp plan this year, do everything you can to avoid asking your “A” player to take a pay cut. Remember, the top performers likely account for a disproportionate percentage of your revenues. These are the players to protect at all costs – treat them that way.
  • Increase commission percentages: With sales harder to come by, it might be advisable to provide more upside reward for good deals. Perhaps apply this to new deals or deals of a certain threshold or margin. This will keep your sales pros hungry enough to be doing the things necessary to grow the business.
  • Transparency at all levels: With so much constant fluctuation in the markets, and within most companies, bring your top performers into the fold – informing them ahead of time of changes or new areas of focus so they can feel valued – and not shocked or surprised. You might even consider some equity in the company as a carrot you can dangle to have your “A” player fully invested in the future of your business.

What are you doing to keep your “A” players engaged and productive?

For more than 40 years, we have helped sales managers have a better understanding of their role, where to focus their attention, and how to coach to the strengths and weaknesses of each of the sales professionals they lead. For more information on Sales Management Training, or how to coach your “A” players, reach out to us today!


Josh Winters

Josh Winters is a Group Vice President/Director of Sales at The Brooks Group, where he serves as the first point-of-contact for organizational stakeholders looking to improve their teams’ sales effectiveness and overall talent management.

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