The Flying Tigers is the most famous fighter squadron in the world and known for their incredible win record (or kill record in their case). What few people know is that the 60 pilots of the Flying Tigers were out-numbered and fought an enemy with superior equipment.  How did they do it?  Great coaching. and bravery of course.  Sales leaders must know the story of a young Colonel named Claire Chennault. He coached his pilots on the techniques and observed success in the field.  It’s the ultimate story of leadership and coaching.  Sales leaders can bring these qualities to your team. It’s difficult to grow revenue faster than your industry’s growth rate and faster than your competitors. Leverage the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year. 


Colonel Chennault coached 60 ‘A’ Player pilots with a mind of their own. He had to get them to change their habits or get shot down against superior forces. The basics of coaching ‘A’ Players are as true today as they were in 1941.  


Chennault’s approach to air combat was based on his study of enemy tactics and equipment, his observation of Soviet pilots in China, and the strengths and weaknesses of his own aircraft and pilots. When enemy aircraft attacked, Chennault’s doctrine called for pilots to take on enemy aircraft in teams from an altitude advantage, since their aircraft were not as maneuverable or as numerous as the enemy fighters they encountered. Coaching delivered the top win rate among any fighter squadron, despite non-ideal performance conditions. Give your sales team the coaching they need to increase their win rate.


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 them implement the new process by allowing the ‘A’ player to experience 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. 


Are you struggling with change management with your ‘A’ players?  Do you need some coaching on how to handle them? Consider a visit to The Studio, SBI’s multimillion dollar, one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art executive briefing center. A visit to The Studio increases the probability of making your number because the sessions are built on the proven strength and stability of SBI, the industry leader in B2B sales and marketing. 


The Studio Executive Briefing Center


Photo Source: R.T. Smith Autographed AVG WikiMedia Commons