Are Star Performers The Only Salespeople Who Matter?

by Chris Young

Few walk their talk.

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Only star performing salespeople matter - particularly in the long-run.

Sounds cold doesn't it?

When I speak with a CEO and/or sales manager, they often "head fake" me when I ask them about low performers who are allowed to stay.

They almost always say they believe in hiring and retaining only star sales performers.

Are you managing a charity or a sales team?

At one end of the spectrum, most sales teams have a select few salespeople who out-produce everyone else by a factor of 10 or 20. You absolutely want more top performers on your team.

At the other end of the spectrum, most sales teams have at least one or more charity cases - salespeople who produce barely enough revenue to cover their own salary.

What seems to "save" most low performers is some past endeavor - perhaps one time string of strong sales (aka got lucky) or the low performer is related to or grew up with the sales manager or CEO and is therefore untouchable.


Allowing low performers to stay obviously kills the potential of your sales team.

Imagine watching your favorite baseball team and hearing, "Next up to bat is Johnny Wasgood... He is one of the team's charity cases... The last time he actually "hit the ball" was in 1990 when the owner teed up a big deal for him..."

Absurd right? No baseball team that wanted to be competitive would do such a thing!

Then why do this?

Yes, I do believe in charity. I give to my church. I write a check to my favorite causes from time to time. But I absolutely do not believe in charity in my business. My business is an S-Corp, not a 501c3 (nonprofit).

I am committed to growing my business and I can not do so with sales talent that is average or worse. I must have only star performers.

Interestingly, recent high performer research is compelling. I recently read a FastCompany article - "Are Star Performers The Only Employees Who Matter?"  And as researchers Herman Aguinis and Ernest O’Boyle Jr. have found, star performers (who account for four-fifths of a company's output) - cut across fields.

Star performers create extreme value.

Following are seven things you must do in order to truly have a star performer sales team.  

  • Commit. This is the most important. You must decide you are going to lead a world class sales team and company.  Decide that average and mediocrity is for the "other guy". Decide to cut loose the driftwood that you are paying charity taxes on.
  • Set your expectations high. Chances are you have a star performer or two. Expect two things - an improved top level sales revenue figure and expect to add additional star performers to the team.
  • Make sure what you believe star performance to be actually is. Some low performers "pose" as star performers because they have figured out a way to make sales with little effort, ability, and skill.
  • Set performance expectations- for activity levels as well as actual sales. While many salespeople put in the time and make sure the right activities are completed, others "pose" as if they are and rely on a big account or the last big sale (got lucky) to carry them. Star performers are naturally hungry for the next sales opportunity.
  • Set time limits.Give salespeople a chance to succeed and give them a time limit. Make sure they know how much time they have to make quota so that if they know they are not cutting it, they can seek other opportunities elsewhere. Salespeople who are unable to make quota must leave to work for your competition.
  • Always be hiring. Great salespeople are often found. If you develop a reputation of high performance and being fair, great salespeople will find you. If you are serious about having a team of star salespeople, you must always be looking for great sales talent. The best way to do so is to ask your sales team, "Who do you hate coming up against in the marketplace? Who do you hate losing to?"
  • Always confirm the talent potential of your sales candidates. The best salespeople have specific Behavior traits and Values that drive them to perform. If you are not using a valid sales personality assessment to identify the performance potential of your sales candidates and current sales team, there is no way you will build a team of star sales performers.
It is up to you. Hire and retain only star sales performers.
Sales Personality Aptitude Test Sample Assessment