Is it lack of courage?  No bench strength?  There are a few key reasons we will explore below.


  1. Poor ‘C’ player identification
  2. No Sales Management Infrastructure
  3. Bad breath is better than no breath
  4. Fear


C Player Visual


Poor ‘C’ player identification:

Many leaders stack rank their teams based on performance alone.  While results are the ultimate indicator, other criteria can be important.  Culture fit, leading indicators, team leadership, cross-functional relationships, etc.  I have also personally seen many sales organizations equate tenure level with performance levels due to the fact that their performance typically improves over time due to residuals.  This is a huge mistake.  When benchmarking your team it is important to look at a relevant peer group.  It isn’t fair to compare a 10 year veteran directly to someone with 6 months in the role. 


Another mistake is labeling new hires as ‘C’ players early on.  Until new people finish ramping they should all be labeled as ‘A’ players.  You loved them when you hired them, so they should all be ‘A’ players until they are fully enabled to perform.


No Sales Management Infrastructure:

Before you label anyone on your team a ‘C’ player you need to ask yourself the following questions.


  1. Do they understand exactly what is expected of them?
  2. Have I provided all the tools and resources necessary?
  3. Have I provided coaching, training and support?
  4. Have I shown them what I want?
  5. Did I hire the wrong person or the role?


Rightfully so, many sales leaders don’t let go of ‘C’ players because they haven’t provided them with the tools and support to be successful.


Bad breath is better than no breath:

Many Sales Leaders would rather have someone producing poor results than nobody at all.  The recent rash of hiring freezes has made Sales Manager increasingly paranoid regarding the ability to backfill positions.  While this rationale may make sense to the leader, it is important to look at the holistic ramifications of having a ‘C’ player on the team.  They demand resources and drag down other team members.  The argument can be made that their small contribution is overshadowed by the negative effect they have on the team.




  • Fear that it will have a negative effect on morale if a team member is fired (typically terminating ‘C’ players has the opposite effect)
  • Fear of confrontation
  • Fear of having an open territory
  • Fear that HR won’t let me fire them


Call to Action:


Stack rank your team.  Who are the ‘As’, ‘Bs’, and ‘Cs’?  For those that are labeled as ‘Cs’, ask yourself the Sales Management Infrastructure questions.


  • Do they understand exactly what is expected of them?
  • Have I provided all the tools and resources necessary?
  • Have I provided coaching, training and support?
  • Have I shown them how to perform activities correctly?
  • Did I hire the wrong person for the role?


If you labeled them a ‘C’ and can answer yes to all the questions above, fire them.  Quit wasting time on someone that is making the choice not to invest in their own success.  Shift that time to hiring your next superstar and coaching and training your ‘As’ and ‘Bs’.  If you answered yes to the first 4 bullets, but not the 5th, it is your fault for hiring the wrong person for the role.  Find them another spot in the organization where they can be successful. 


Your Go to Market Strategy cannot be realized without talented resources to execute it.  Don’t let negative influences pull your entire team down. 


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Scott Gruher

Orchestrates and designs the perfect project strategy, one engagement at a time, to ensure that every SBI client makes their number.

Scott joined SBI in 2010 with years of hands-on experience in sales leadership and enterprise selling. Since his arrival, he has helped dozens of organizations dramatically accelerate growth, from Fortune 10 organizations like Phillips 66 to fast-growing cloud service organizations like InfusionSoft. Scott specializes in cross-functional alignment. He helps leaders align around the growth goal and design the right processes to bring the strategy to life. His unique combination of real world experience and a pragmatic approach to problem solving have made him one of SBI’s most demanded resources.

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