A-Players are a company’s most precious assets, and with the current state of the world, losing these reps is not an option. Chief People Officers have the responsibility of retaining A-Players and expanding their ranks, even during market disruptions.

A few months ago I wrote about unemployment which was then at an all-time low—how things have changed.  A-Player sales reps, who are precious assets in any economic climate, are currently unsettled regardless of their reputations and legacies. The world is changing around them and quickly.  No matter how storied a company’s history or culture is, even the most talented reps are left wondering what is next.


Losing A-Players has a crippling effect on an organization. Not only will it take time to ramp new reps, but morale and culture will also suffer if these reps depart. How do you, as a Chief People Officer, retain A-Player talent and attract additional highly-talented individual reps in this environment?


Rep Retention: Compensation and Quota Adjustments That Reflect Reality


By now, most of our blog readers are familiar with our GTM framework for COVID impact. If not, here is a refresher. Let us briefly review section 8, which has implications for A-Players. Specifically, the third component of this section (highlighted below) covers compensation and quota. CPO’s need to ensure that compensation plans retain, attract, and motivate individuals through the crisis. Check out the full deck here.



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Chief People Officers need to encourage their organizations to adjust compensation plans to retain A-Players. Consider quota relief in the form of partial or total quota adjustments.  Other offerings may include short-term SPIFs, or instead of overall plan modifications, consider year-end adjustments.


Here is SBI’s three-step approach to revising the 2020 plan for reps:


  1. Plan Design: Plans must be architected to ensure that long-term critical objectives are still relevant and top-of-mind, top talent is retained, and the impact of the crisis is mitigated through short-term plan modifications.
  2. Financial Modeling – Compensation plans must be validated and tested in multiple scenarios in a highly uncertain environment, so the financial implication to the company is well understood. Modeling provides insights into overall financial flexibility in the short and mid-term.
  3. Plan Communication – Plans must be clearly articulated to managers and individual contributors to understand the new mechanics during this period of uncertainty. Market leaders also include incentive calculators, so reps know how they would be paid in their unique circumstances.


Transparency and communication are key here. Reps are probably spinning, trying to understand how they are going to make their number. Regular and honest communication about the changes affecting their pay will continue to foster trust. Laying out the “art of the possible” for reps will help them understand how much their organization cares.


Attracting New Talent


Last week I reached out to three A-Player reps and caught up about life & work. There was an interesting theme emanating from these conversations. A-Players are listening to the market and opportunities, even more so than normal. As unemployment skyrockets and RIFs are a regular occurrence, A-Players weigh their options. Many of the reps are open to opportunities and expressed as much to me. Simply look at LinkedIn and browse connections, and you will find many of your A-Player reps have their Premium settings turned on.


Chief People Officers can use this time to top-grade by having conversations with those in their network. There is no better place to start than with your A-Players themselves. Typically, these folks have deep and vast networks. Tap them to understand if anyone in their network is looking to move. Another powerful recruiting tool is publishing thought leadership on how COVID-19 has changed things for the better. Everyone has heard the negative, so shine a spotlight on the positive. Virtual workforces. Less travel. Etc. If these are concepts your org is playing with, broadcast it. Either one of these approaches will lead to an abundance of interesting conversations.


SBI Is Here to Help

Seriously! Check out our 24/7 executive hotline for GTM questions


The job of a CHRO is to nurture A-Players and make sure they reach their full potential. This however, requires a pivot during COVID-19. Are you doing everything in your power to make this happen? If the answer is not a resounding yes, review SBI’s Revenue Growth Approach for COVID-19 or consider reaching out to my friends and I at our Executive Hotline.


Download SBI's Revenue Growth Approach Tool Here


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Geoff Schuler

Blends the classical approach to strategy with cutting edge data analytics to help clients make their number.

Geoff is an experienced management consultant with a heavy background in working directly with executive leadership to help achieve strategic outcomes. His experiences range from engaging full executive teams on corporate strategy development, to revamping compensation structures to align with firm  goals. Recently, he worked with the senior executives of a mid-size company to tailor financial assumptions, build, and present a pro forma model that depicted the impact an acquisition strategy would have on revenue and EBIDTA. The company followed the model’s guidelines as they executed on their strategy.


Geoff is a CPA and self-proclaimed data hound, whose demonstrated skill set includes: commercial due diligence, go-to-market strategies, market segmentation, competitive analysis, data analytics, development of M&A strategy & all related diligence, financial modeling, and compensation evaluation & restructure.

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