What To Do With Your 'C' Players35

Another line of feedback I got on the post last Friday about the role of the sales process, was about my comment regarding why the manager in question was wasting her time on ‘C’ players. The implication clearly being that it was time not well spent, let me be clear, it is more than an implication; it is my view is specifically that spending time with ‘C’ players is a mistake, and time you will not see a return on.

I know that there are a number of schools of thought on this, and while I line up clearly with one, I recognize that there are other views and roads to success; it a subjective thing, but I believe the approach discussed here delivers consistent results over time.  It is also important to note there is not a lot new when it comes to handling different performers in your organization, the wheel has been invented, and it really does come down to how you spin it, and as always, execution.

It is important that as a manager or a sales leader you rate and rank your team members. These rankings should be objective and equally applied.  One of the problems that tends to develop around the “weaker” team members, is the level of subjectivity managers allow to get into the process, the more objective you keep things the better the result for all involved.  As an example, I remember being involved in a discussion around lay-offs, and the reluctance of an executive to pull the plug on a weak performer, because “they liked them” and because they were striving to maintain a certain gender balance in the team. There is no room for this in issues impacting the company’s revenues, success and the individuals involved.

So the whole thing starts with developing key attributes and criteria by which you are going to rate and rank your reps.  It does not have to be complex, a straight forward process mapped to specific skill needed to successfully execute your sale (click here to download a simple sample).  I like a three tier approach, A, B, C; or 1, 2, 3; red, white and blue, whatever turns you on.  Some like four or five tiers, for me I think three is just right.

With a structure in place, it becomes a question of where organizations, leaders and managers want to spend their time and energies.  I am squarely in the camp of those who say spend the majority of your time with your ‘A’ players, some of your time with ‘B’ players who show REAL potential of becoming ‘A’, spend no time with the ‘C’ players.   This may seem cold to some, and I respect their view, but it is not for me.

If you buy into the fact that your top few players deliver 80% of your results, why would you not spend all your time with them?  I hear things like “they know what they are doing, you should help the ones who are struggling instead.”  But assuming that everyone has been given the same resources, the same hiring process, the question becomes why are they a ‘C’, while others are delivering at an ‘A’ level?

By spending time with the ‘C’ players you are not only insulting the ‘A’ player, but running the risk that the ‘A’ player may leave and the ‘C’ will stay.  Let’s be real, the ‘A’ guy has options, while there is no doubt that environment feeds success, they are likely to be top tier no matter where they go, and they will not lack options.  The ‘C’ player is not sought after, they have no where to go, and by lavishing attention on to them you will only encourage them to stay and keep falling short.  It is much better for everyone involved to face facts, and moved on.

Reward those that deliver and ignore those that don’t.  It will not take them long to figure out that if they want your attention, your “love”, they will have to earn it with performance not a lack of it. 

If you do have ‘C’s the big question is how quickly can you replace them with an ‘A’?  Again I come from the school of “hire slow, and fire fast”.  Everyone is allowed a mistake, sometimes the best sale a rep makes is during the interview process, the question is how fast do you live up to the mistake and deal with it?  Most sales managers get nervous when they have a vacant territory, and they end up settling for things as a result.  You hear things like “oh he’s coming around”, “we’re working with her on…”  While I understand the perceived potential impact and cost of a vacant territory, it is nowhere near the real cost of a bad hire, both if they stay, or if you have to end up replacing them. If you can recognize an ‘A’, then you should strive to hire ‘A’s, and live with a vacant territory until you can; in the long run you will regret it less, and build a stronger team in the process.

Again I realize we are dealing with people here, and I don’t mean anyone any harm.  In most cases once the ‘C’ sales person lands in the right job based on their skills, they look back with relief.  Look at it a different way, if you were managing a ball club, and you had a player who consistently under performed, and one that was a league leader.  Which one would you trade, and which one would you bonus?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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