No matter what industry you’re in if you have a sales team there are a few that you would categorize as ‘A’ sellers. These are your go-to performers who possess great attitudes and continuously deliver top-notch results; the select few that you would want to join you should you start your own business.
You likely know exactly who these folks are, but are you acutely aware of what they want and expect? Oftentimes they’re not easy to manage and may even be quite demanding. There are a myriad of reasons for this and some are more easily recognized than others. The following are the main success and failure triggers I’ve encountered with these elite, driven few.
They must have the opportunity to do what they do best at some point every day. This is why it’s so critical to have the right people in the right roles within your organization. When employees aren’t able to utilize their innate talents regularly, they quickly disengage. Once they do, it’s almost impossible to re-engage them and it’s only a matter of time before they leave.
They need to have the sense that their superiors care about them, for their own good. Ask them what’s important to them and listen to learn, remember and act on that information. Also ask them whom they’d be sure to tell if they won an award. Then, when the employee surpasses your expectations, send those people a note bragging about them. This is powerful.
Speaking of superiors, ‘A’ players want to be managed by ‘A’ managers. They may have their own definition of what makes a manager great, but regardless they won’t tolerate weakness from the management team. If you’ve got employees bypassing their direct report manager on a regular basis, you’ll need to figure out exactly why that’s happening and determine which is most important to your success, the manager or the employee.
Being surrounded by other ‘A’ players on the team is equally as critical. ‘A’ players won’t remain on teams consisting primarily of ‘B’ or ‘C” players. While an ‘A’ seller may help to carry lesser performing team members for a while, they won’t tolerate that responsibility for long and will become quite frustrated. If this problem isn’t corrected, they’ll self-select off the team citing weak management that is unable to hold others accountable and/or recruit the right people.
There must be an opportunity for continued growth. The caveat here is that what they believe is best for them isn’t always the case, as when top sellers are promoted to management in error. If management truly cares about what’s best long-term for the employee, they’ll provide ample opportunities for continued learning, give honest feedback and help craft a development plan that includes benchmarks for monitoring progress. If their ambitions aren’t a fit with your business it’s best to find this out early, preferably in the interview phase.
They need clarity and specificity. When people don’t know what’s expected of them they can’t tell when or if they’re meaningfully contributing to the team. The more competitive the person, the more important clarity is. At the end of the day, there should be no surprises as to what will be celebrated and why, when, where and how.
Their opinions must matter to you. Knowing that they have a voice and that you’ll seriously consider what they have to say is critical. You need to give them every opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise. Additionally, you need to reinforce how much you value their input by giving them credit for their ideas.
They want their space. This manifests in two ways. First, typically self-managed and highly motivated these folks should not be micro-managed. They’ve established a plan and behavioral metrics that they regularly follow and as such do not need to be poked and prodded. Second, they are also very in tune with who they are and what they need to excel, this may mean that some put ear buds in to tune out auditory distractions; others may display vision boards to keep them on track – either way, their space needs to be theirs.
Last but not least, if they are significant to you, they need to be recognized for their contributions in a way that’s meaningful to them. Do they prefer public or private praise, or a combination of both? Let your superiors and other department heads know why you’re commending employees. Encourage others to send notes, e-mails, leave voice mail messages of congratulations and thanks.
In short, you know who your most important players are and just how much they’re contributing to your success. Do everything in your power to keep them engaged, happy and committed to sharing in your success.