Sales Management: How to Identify Top Performers

By Butch Bellah

So how do you, a sales manager, let your top players know that you recognize them? Here are a few tips for how to let your top performers feel acknowledged, and how to give them what they need to ensure they want to stay and stay motivated.

These are your superstars, the cream of the crop, and while some may know it, it never hurts to hear it. No employee ever got upset because someone bragged on her or gave her a pat on the back.

Too many times managers only recognize poor behavior; here are some ways to recognize superior performance, as well.

Share your assessment with sales people

Your top performers or A players need to know that they’re your A players. Don’t hide that from them. Let them know you consider them your leaders and that you expect more of them than the others (don’t worry, they love the responsibility). Let them know you respect their drive and determination.

Let your top people know that you’re there for them. They most likely have never had a sales manager tell them that — most have felt they were there for the manager but not vice versa.

Solicit input from sales people

Want to get the most out of your A players? Get their input on how to grow the business. Guess what? They know! But, again they’ve probably never been asked what they would do or what changes they would make in your product or service.

Here’s the irony about getting good ideas from your sales team: The ones who have good tips may not feel they have the relationship to share them because the previous manager spent all her time cleaning up after the D and F players, and the teams members who have no clue about how to improve the business are more than willing to tell you exactly what needs to change around here.

Create an open door policy as a sales manager

This should go for all your salespeople, but especially the crème de la crème: Let everyone know without hesitation that you are always available for her no matter what.

More than likely, the top 10 to 15 percent of your team is responsible for 75 percent of your sales or more, and perhaps an even greater percentage of your gross profit. Nothing is more important than what they need — even if it’s someone to talk to or to vent to. (Helpful hint: Let them vent occasionally; it’s good for everyone.)

If you feel it appropriate, create a President’s Roundtable or some other exclusive group tasked with meeting on a regular basis to mastermind and brainstorm ideas, solutions, and plans for the future. Create a program like this where opinions matter and people get to be a part of short-term and long-term solutions.

Your A-level players will gravitate toward it. Let them be a part of the process. Remember, they’re out in the field every day so they know the customers’ needs and wants better than anyone. Listen to them, and they’ll make your company better and you a better manager. Meet with them regularly — just them — and get their input and opinion on what needs to be done.

Ask how you can help the sales people

Finally, make it crystal clear you want to help your best salespeople continue to grow. This can’t be stressed enough that the job of a sales manager is to work for the salespeople and not have them work for you. Ask regularly, “How can I help?” or “What can I do for you?” — and don’t make it just lip service. Listen, respond, and keep these eagles flying high!

A word of caution: These are professionals, but some will try to take advantage when you solicit their suggestions. You need to keep in mind that you’re in management, not sales. Ultimately, you have to do what you believe is best for the company and the department.

If you solicited their opinion or input and decide to go in a different direction, be upfront with them and let them know you felt the need to do what you did. This doesn’t mean you don’t want their ideas, but you have to be responsible for the team’s performance.