best sales talentA good friend of mine once said “things happen slowly, then suddenly”. Translation: the fateful “hey, do you have a second” conversation is avoidable. If your organization is committing any of the sins below, I guarantee you as sure as today is Christmas you will lose ‘A’ players by the end of Q1. The impact: the top 20% of the sales force is still carrying over ¾ of the production; your company will miss the number. Below are the pitfalls and some talent management prevention steps to help you quickly change course.


  1. Quota Assignment – increasing your ‘A’ players’ quota by more than the rest of the sales force because “they always find a way”.
    • Prevention: Instead of committing the age old sin of rolling out quotas with no science, have the managerial courage to delay the roll out. Push your sales operations team for data. Quotas can only be assigned properly if you understand the potential of the territory.
  2. Compensation Plans – failing to overpay your top performers. Companies make poor decisions about compensation plans and starve the top to satisfy the middle. This is a mistake. You are signaling to the team that you are not a true sales culture.
    • Prevention: don’t change the comp plan unless you have done number 1 above and you are striving to pay your top performers 3-5 times the variable pay of your bottom performers.
  3. Development Plans – failing to provide a detailed development plan to your best people sends a message that you don’t value them. The best way to recognize your ‘A’ players is help them progress across multiple dimensions.
    • Prevention: pretend each of your ‘A’ players walked in and resigned tomorrow. What would you do and what would you say to keep them? Now go and do both. You will never hear an ‘A’ player say “I left my last company because my boss appreciated me and developed me too much”.
  4. Lead Generation-asking your sales people to generate their own leads is the equivalent of using dial up internet and a pager vs. an iPhone.
    • Prevention: invest in Lead Development Reps. This is of significant importance, especially if your reps are charged with growing share of wallet inside existing accounts. The ability to grow the install base without support from Marketing is virtually impossible.

Call to Action:

Sales excellence is equal parts talent and equal parts the performance conditions in which you place that talent. The four areas above will help you address the performance conditions you create. Looking for best practices on finding new ‘A’ player sales talent? Join our webinar on Thursday January 12th and hear the best practices. If you have any other tips on preventing the best from exiting, let us know.



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Matt Sharrers

Studies and works with the top 1% of B2B sales and marketing leaders who generate above average revenue growth for their companies.
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Matt is arguably one of the industry’s most connected, and physically fit, sales leaders. He “lives in the field.” As a result, he is the foremost expert in the art of separating fact from fiction as it relates to revenue growth best practices. Because of Matt’s unique access to the best sales talent, private equity investors tend to turn to him first when they need to hire remarkable leaders to unlock trapped growth inside of their portfolio companies. Matt’s recent engagements include work commissioned by private equity leaders Permira, TPG, Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman.


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