If that doesn’t catch your attention, it should. But mis-hires can be reduced — if not avoided all together — if you follow the basic concepts outlined in my book, Topgrading for Sales, written with Bradford D. Smart.


This methodical approach teaches you to build an assessment and scorecard that assigns your salespeople to one of three categories: outperforming A players, average B players, and subpar C and lesser players. 



To Topgrade, you must perform at least a 45-minute conversation with a former manager. Leveraging this information gives you significant power to increase your percentage of A players. Only 20 percent of the typical sales force comprises A players — the best-in-class performers. Another 60 percent are B players. The remaining 20 percent are C players or lower. By Topgrading, you can end up with 70 percent to 90 percent A players and 10 percent to 30 percent B players.

Imagine a sales force where 90 percent of your team is made up of A players who outperform the rest by two to three times in terms of revenue production. Your top-line growth would skyrocket.


The most difficult, yet most critical, challenge of Topgrading is getting the scorecard right for evaluating current talent. With every company and unique role, defining what an A player looks like is difficult.


You must create a methodology that scores job candidates according to key competencies. That requires writing penetrating interview questions that test for each category. The manager must also accurately distinguish between good and bad answers.


If you can build a good talent profile and effectively test candidates, Topgrading will improve hiring results and sales performance remarkably. But to truly Topgrade, you must go further.


During the hiring process, a typical non-Topgrading reference check calls the people supplied by the candidate and does little more than verify dates of employment. It’s essentially a fact-gathering exercise.


To Topgrade, you must perform a reference interview, consisting of at least a 45-minute conversation with a former manager. This allows you to dive deeply into the candidate’s background and performance. The reference interviews must be with former bosses — not people who might be considered friendly, such as former colleagues — to keep the information as unbiased as possible.


Since Topgrading for Sales came out in 2008, it’s become almost standard-operating procedure among forward-thinking, aggressive sales organizations. Less-aggressive, less-forward-thinking sales organizations adopt it far less frequently. 


If you have to compete with tough competitors, or you would like to be able to, this is a best practice you can’t afford to be without.

How to Slay Your Number in 2016

Are you going to make your number in 2016?

If you are not sure but would really like to know, turn to page 46 and read our feature titled “How to Make Your Number in 2016.” Here, we summarize the primary findings from SBI’s ninth-annual research project, which captures what the best of the best are doing to exceed their revenue targets.


Greg Alexander

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by getting the product team, the marketing department, and the sales organization into strategic alignment.
Learn more about Greg Alexander >

Greg is the host of The SBI Podcast, the most listened to sales and marketing podcast on the internet.


He is the host of SBI TV, a monthly television program broadcast on the internet featuring top B2B sales and marketing leader sharing their strategies to grow revenues.


Greg is the Editor-in-Chief of The SBI Magazine, the leading B2B publication focused on sales and marketing effectiveness.


He is the author of two critically acclaimed books Topgrading for Sales and Making the Number.


Greg has authored over 100 articles on SBI’s award winning blog, The SBI Blog.


He graduated from The University of Massachusetts Amherst with a BA in English and received his MBA from Georgia Tech.




Transforming the Sales Organization inside Fortune 500 Companies

Greg Alexander and John Gleason, Chief Sales Officer of Ryder, talk about the unique challenges of transforming a sales team inside of very large enterprises.


A Better Way to Structure Your Sales Force

Greg Alexander and Tony Capucille, Chief Sales Officer at Heartland Payment Systems, discuss the pros and cons of the 7 B2B sales organizational models.


Build a team of A Players Inside the Sales Organization

Greg Alexander and Todd Cione, Chief Revenue Officer at Rackspace, talk about hiring, onboarding, and developing exceptional sales talent.




Fill Every Role on Your Team with an A Player

In this article, Greg Alexander makes the case for applying the TopGrading methodology to the sales team, and outlines how to do so.


What CEOs Need to Know About Their Marketing Strategies

In this article, Greg Alexander and Rashid Skaf, CEO of AMX, discuss the role the CEO plays in crafting a company’s marketing strategy.


What CEOs are Looking for in a Sales Leader

In this article, Greg Alexander and George Norton, leader of Heidrick & Struggles Chief Sales Officer practice, discuss what CEOs need in the chief sales officer role.

Read full bio >