May 152012

Behavior Change: 3 ways to get Sales Managers to change the habits of ‘A’ players

Behavior Change: Posted by Dan Perry on Sat, May 12, 2012
87% of sales management tell me they want to spend more time with their ‘A’ players   Yet, Sales Manager selling time is hovering around 48%.  SMs don’t have the time to spend with their ‘A’ reps (or any reps like they should).   In comparison, World Class selling time is around 77% for SMs.  And part of this time must be spent with those ‘A’ players.


You need to retain these people and help them increase their productivity even more.  Your best sales people are being recruited away daily.  Heck, I get phone calls from recruiters about every other week.  Great talent is hard to attract, recruit and retain.  But once you get them on board, losing one can cost the company literally millions of dollars.

Recently, one of my customer’s sales managers called me.  He just had his best sales person  (‘A’ player) resign.  “Dan, what do I do?  What can I say to ‘save’ him?  Give me something good” he asked me.  Of course I asked him how have you retained him?   “Couldn’t spend time in the field with him Dan.  I have too many ‘B’ and ‘C’ players that I need to ride with” he claimed.

By the way, that’s a big problem.  Best in Class SM coaching performance tells us you should spend 20% of your time with ‘A’ players; 70% of your time with ‘B’ Players and only 10% with ‘C’ players .

My next question was ‘Why did he resign?”.  Answer: “The new sales process and coaching program you guys helped us put in place is frustrating him.  He doesn’t want to use it and thinks his productivity is dropping and I am micro-managing him because of it.  The competition kept calling him and he finally agreed to meet with them and make the jump.”

SBI has recently helped numerous organizations map their sales process to a buying process.  We have designed, developed and implemented many Sales Management Programs in companies worldwide.  And every one of them needed a change management plan for the sales force.  The problem is they don’t separate out the ‘A’ players from the others.   ‘A’ players don’t want a new process.  They don’t want to be coached differently.  They just want to be left alone.

There are three big problems with this thinking:

  1. What got the ‘A’ player there currently won’t keep them there long term.
  2. The ‘B’ and ‘C’ player says “If they get an exception to the process, why do I have to follow the process?”
  3. Without consistent process throughout the organization, you can never understand what you did right or wrong.  The process provides a baseline.  And without this baseline it leads to low or no growth in companies (ever wonder why some companies, big or small, just don’t grow)

Got it.  So what do I do?

3 ways to get Sales Managers to change the habits of ‘A’ players

  1. Ride with your ‘A’ players in the field. This may seem obvious but finish reading this blog, call up your ‘A’ players and put a date in the calendar with them NOW.  Spend the quality time with them.  Don’t just ride to one customer and then leave; complete the whole day.  And evaluate them with a Field Ride form.  We call ours a DILO (Day in the Life of).  Download a copy of it here.
  2. Develop individual change management plans around new processes.  New processes, systems or changes will always have a dip in productivity.  The severity of productivity loss and length of time of the dip is up to you.  Customizing an individual change management plan for each ‘A’ player will allow that individual to understand and adopt the process, system or change.   If you try and slam the person into the overall system, you might get a resignation email from them shortly.
  3.  Be very consistent with your interactions. Cadence is the key with ‘A’ players.  Planning to have a one on one with them, placing a DILO on the calendar and keeping the date or at least setting a weekly catch up call is critical.  They think they really don’t need you.  And they will tell you everything is great. ”No Worries boss” is a phrase I hear a lot.  Don’t buy it for a second. All ‘A’ players love the attention.   Consistency with them is king.

Homer Gray demonstrates these abilities as a sales manager.   I remember when I promoted Homer to the SM role.  He took over for a team that consistently achieved their quota.  In fact, they were the best sales team in the country.   Homer made sure he spent time with his ‘A’ players.  He rode in the field, never missed a one on one session and helped those ‘A’ players when we rolled out a new sales process.   It wasn’t easy with those great sales reps.  But Homer didn’t say ‘Don’t worry, you do a great job, so using this process is optional.’  Instead, he created a separate plan for each individual on his team.  This plan helped the implement the new process by allowing the ‘A’ player to get some quick wins using part of the process. These quick wins helped change his attitude.  Instead of cherry picking the process, the ‘A’ player commits to using the entire process and shortens the change management process.


To Discuss how these Solutions will add value for you, your organization and/or your clients, Affinity/Resale Opportunities, and/or Collaborative Efforts, Please Contact:

Tom McDonald,; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752

behavior change, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC