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Shifting the Bell Curve: Turning B-Players into A-Players

turning b players into a players

Hyper Focus on Revenue, Good or Bad?

I had an interesting conversation recently with a global VP of Sales who warned me that he was about to say something shocking. “I need for my team to stop being so revenue obsessed,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I still care about revenue and results. But our future demands that we think differently.”

He went on to explain that in raising a generation of hunters, they have programmed a heavy focus on numbers, reports, and lagging results. Continuous movement within the competitive environment is challenging them to think and behave differently. Quality of action is the new priority.

This line of thinking is not radical, but it can be transformational. Focusing on leading behaviors that impact lagging results is the new normal for sales organizations who want to achieve stretch results. Coaching B players to behave like A players until habits erupt creates a bell curve shift to the right.

What Is a Leading Behavior?

Consider it your secret sauce. It is the quality of action over the quantity of action. Being thoughtful and intentional regarding the handful of behaviors that trigger success (pipeline velocity, conversion, deal expansion) goes a long way. Once you create a clear picture of your sales process (in tight alignment with your customer’s buying process), there is an opportunity to identify triggers that differentiate you. For example, one sales team determined that by involving their customer to join in a test run activity during the Convince stage of the funnel, their conversion rate increased. So now they have adopted this best practice as a standard.

How Is a Leading Behavior Different from a Leading Metric?

Metrics are quantifiable. Behaviors can be specific, but also intangible. Both are important. Think about it this way: key actions lead to best practice behaviors that drive results. Identification and tracking of leading metrics provides an element of proof or evidence to gauge the strength of our position on the path to results. It is helpful to share this logic with our sales teams so they can see how their daily actions and behaviors drive the result.

Come up with a selective handful of high-gain actions that will get you lift and then coach relentlessly against those predictive levers. Start with just a few of the most critical triggers to really emphasize their importance, knowing that you can always add to the list in future quarters. Turn your attention to improving a B-player’s skill level in these areas in order to efficiently increase his or her overall performance.

Quality vs. Quantity

Both are important when it comes to actions and behaviors. Being intentional about the actions and behaviors that fill each day/week/month, has great potential to impact our results. Discipline and commitment to action is a good start, but it is the quality of action that gives us a big lift. One common error that sales teams make is to focus on quantity of action without enough regard to the quality of action. 50 calls per day, 10 appointments per week, 20 quotes per month…no doubt a commitment to action can impact the math at the end of each month. But when we as sales leaders coach to skills that reinforce quality behavior, the math explodes.

Transparency into Areas of Strength and Gap

No one is perfect, including our top performers. We all have areas where we excel and struggle, and self-awareness and visibility into these areas is the ticket to capitalizing on strengths and improving on weaknesses. In fact, we run the risk of becoming obsolete in the value we provide to customers if we do not constantly refine, reinvent, and improve. Gap areas present the opportunity to beg, borrow, and steal from the best—that includes those around us with good ideas, and best practices within the industry.

For example, veteran salespeople often assume too much because they “have seen it all." Coaching questions that require customer validation prompts better action.

Block and Tackle Coaching

To reiterate the importance of turning your attention to leading indicators, specific concepts and skills can be used as bite-sized opportunities for real-world coaching. Focus on a key concept and have your sales rep incorporate it into a meeting with a customer. Then, close the coaching loop by conducting a debrief on what went well and what can be improved upon in the future. Make sure you resist evaluating the meeting as a whole and rather, zero in on the concept of focus.

In order for coaching to be effective, it’s necessary to create a safe space for reps to speak openly about what was successful and what wasn’t. In the spirit of application, get your reps to tell you stories after their meetings—for better or for worse—and make that a cultural habit.

Share Tribal knowledge Across Your Team

What often separates A-players from B-players on your team is the use of a few key strategies and tactics. Some of the best kept secrets play out every day among top performers, and unless you have created a culture of trust, loyalty, and collaboration within your sales organization those strategies will go unshared.

Sales leaders who draw out successful techniques for sharing across teams, gain affection and respect for adding real value and better results. Sales meetings are the ideal platform for sharing tribal knowledge. Meetings that are too structured risk losing the quality of shared conversation and brainstorming. Consider creating an agenda that fosters creative conversation while keeping a rhythm to the meeting. When salespeople feel committed to the team, appreciated, and safe to contribute, collaboration can occur and your B-players can adopt techniques that make you’re A-players so successful.

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Tony Smith

More articles written by Tony Smith

Tony Smith is a Regional Vice President of Sales at The Brooks Group. Tony’s high-energy, driven, and focused entrepreneurial spirit allows him to confidently approach myriad client business problems with ease. Relationships truly matter to him and he believes that we should all approach everyone with a sincere desire to help in whatever way possible.