Are Your Salespeople A Players?

Rainmakers. Superstars. Top guns. Ace closers.

No matter what you call them, the best salespeople all do one thing better than anyone else — they close sales.

But how do you know if you have truly outstanding salespeople on your team or just good ones? What separates the cream of the crop from all the rest?

According to Vistage speaker Ken Stark, a veteran of 20+ years of sales and sales management experience, most companies measure their salespeople by one primary performance indicator – the number of sales. He believes there’s a lot more to it than that.

“By definition, the best salespeople — whom I call ‘A-player’ salespeople — sell more than anyone else,” he acknowledges. “But it’s how they go about doing it that enables them to stand apart from the crowd. Specifically, A-players engage in a number of activities that other salespeople don’t do on a consistent basis or don’t do at all. Their performance in these critical areas enables A-players to outsell everyone else. Track how your salespeople do in these areas and you’ll go a long way toward improving sales in your organization.”

Establish upfront contracts at the beginning of every sales call. These verbal contracts, which consist of five basic steps, ensure that the salesperson and prospect will agree on a mutual decision at the end of the sales call. The steps are:

  • Establish time parameters for the sales call.
  • Agree on the objectives.
  • Define the salesperson’s role in meeting those objectives.
  • Define the prospect’s role in meeting those objectives.
  • Agree on the desired outcome of the sales call/meeting.

 “The desired outcome is totally different than the objectives of the sales call,” notes Stark. “Objectives have to do with what will be covered during the sales call. The desired outcome is always the mutual decision to either move forward with the relationship or close the book at the end of the call.”

Know the difference between the four possible outcomes of a sales call.  Sales calls always end in one of four ways:


  • Real yes. The client books an order.
  • Real no. The relationship is not a fit and the “book” gets closed.
  • Real future. The relationship is advancing but no decision has been made.
  • Let’s pretend. The salesperson and client pretend the relationship is advancing but it’s really over. (This equals the dreaded “maybe.”)


Have appropriate goals for the sales call. Most salespeople go into a sales call trying to make a sale. “A” players go in with the goal of getting a firm decision: Do we advance this relationship or do we close the book?

“This represents a subtle but very important difference,” notes Stark. “Salespeople who go in with the intention of making a sale often settle for the ‘let’s pretend’ outcome. As a result, they waste time stringing the relationship along in hopes of one day making a sale. In contrast, A-players don’t fear a ‘real no’ decision because it means they can cross that prospect off the list and move on to more promising ones.”

Recognize the real issues and deal with them directly. A-players get down below the surface and uncover the real issues. For example, when a client says, “Your price is too high,” most salespeople go back to the office and complain about the company’s pricing policies. A-player salespeople refuse to accept “your price is too high” at face value. They keep digging to get at the real reason.

  • Have the ability to establish and maintain rapport, even when asking tough questions and dealing with uncomfortable issues. A-players know how to get out of the salesperson role and position themselves as trusted advisors. They focus on asking questions and building the relationship before asking for the sale.
  • Qualify before they present. Most salespeople present first and ask questions later. That’s telling, not selling, which amounts to nothing more than unpaid consulting. According to Stark, selling involves qualifying and then presenting when appropriate.
  • Deal with decision-makers. A-player salespeople don’t waste their time calling on people who can’t give a “yes” decision.
  • Control the process at all times. There’s a big difference between manipulating people and controlling the process. A-player salespeople do the latter without engaging in the former.
    “A-players are complete salespeople,” concludes Stark. “They know what it takes to succeed and they commit to doing the necessary behaviors day in and day out. They don’t fall prey to complacency, and you don’t have to motivate them because they’re on a self-motivated path to personal mastery.”Many companies say they can’t find A-players, but that’s because they haven’t taken the time to define what they look like. If you want to hire more A-players for your company, make a list of all the behaviors, attributes and skills salespeople must have in order to succeed in your organization. Then use that list to create an A-player profile, and hire only those who fit that profile. In today’s highly competitive markets, you can’t afford to hire anyone else.”Ken Stark is the owner of Stark and Associates, Inc., a St. Louis-based business development firm that specializes in training, coaching and developing salespeople and sales managers on a long-term basis. Stark and Associates is a licensee of the Sandler Sales Institute and authorized to provide services solely within the state of Missouri and in a designated area in the southwest portion of Illinois.

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