Are you an A-Player? We all like to think we are A-Players, but is that really possible?

Much like every parent thinks their child is above average when we know that’s simply not mathematically possible, when I talk to Industrial Sales Leaders and ask them point blank, if they consider themselves an ‘A-Player,’ every single one says “Yes I am an A-Player!”

But we can’t all be A-Players, right?

When I ask why they consider themselves to be an A-Player, I usually get the same routine answers about their track record of success, or their ability to lead a team, or their experience with a specific product…

But the real proof in my experience, is their hiring track record.

I firmly believe that our effectiveness as leaders lies in our ability to identify and hire other A-Players.

To be a great leader, the quality of the team is your primary concern. Consider your team to be the fuel for your career. Creating a high performing and well-rounded team is one of the cornerstones of good leadership and developing tomorrow’s Industrial Sales Superstars is a responsibility that sits square on your shoulders.

You’ve heard of Topgrading, right? Topgrading, coined by Bradford Smart an Industrial psychologist and consultant explains that there are three levels of contributors within an organization. Simply put, Topgrading is the practice of stacking your team with A-Players and clearing out the C-Players.  Additionally, A-Players are defined as the top 10 percent of talent available at all salary levels; the first-class superstars. By this intense definition, you are not a Topgrader until your team consists of all A-Players

That is an arduous task for any organization, and the difficulty is even greater for organizations competing in the current candidate-driven talent market.

How do I know? Well, it’s what I do for a living…

Consider this, in my 10+ years as a headhunter in the industrial sales space, I estimate that I have personally interviewed over 10,000 industrial sales candidates for all levels, from inside sales, sales engineers to Directors.

Believe me when I tell you, I know what an A-Player looks like.

To define what an A-Player on your team might look like, they are the top 10% of your team. They work hard, volunteer for additional projects, they consistently exceed expectations, and generally ascend through the ranks quickly. They make their leaders look good.

C-Players are the bottom 10%. They do just enough to get by, never take on additional responsibility, and always seem to be trapped in career purgatory.

The B-Players, the other 80%, they are the 9 to 5 crowd.  They do okay within the boundaries of their job, but are reluctant to take on new responsibilities, projects or challenges and rise through the ranks fairly slowly. For the most part, they are good, but not great.

I know from personal experience that we all like to think of ourselves as A-Players, because it’s human nature to put ourselves on that pedestal. My goal during the interview process is to weed out the B and C-Players, and while there are a multitude of ways of determining whether or not someone is an A-Player, the ultimate proof is that candidates own hiring history.

If my candidate is in a leadership position, I always ask about their personal hiring process.

How do they determine high performers from average performers?
What questions do they ask during the interview process?
What do they feel are important merits to hire for?  What are the red flags to avoid?
How successful have they been in their hiring, and how successful have the team-members been that they’ve hired.  How do they measure who is a successful hire or not?

I ask these questions because I have found that the single biggest commonality amid all A-Players, is they love to hire other A-Players. Not just to build winning teams, but to win big in their careers. They recognize that in order for them to succeed, they have to hire people smarter, more capable, and more talented than themselves.

I’ve found that B and C-Players tend to hire those who are “just good enough”. Whether that is because A-Players do not want to work for them, they don’t have the self-confidence that they can attract and retain to top talent, or if they are just intimidated, their hiring track record tells me what I need to know.

So how can you establish if you truly are an A-Player? Take a look at your own hiring practices and ask yourself this simple, yet tough question, “Am I hiring people better than me?”

If you are a President, VP, or Director and you feel like your career is being hamstrung by your lack of access to the best Industrial Sales talent, then click the link below to learn how you can book a strategy call with me.  No fluff, no hard sales pitch, and you don’t even have to engage us in a search…just proven, actionable strategies that you can start implementing in your recruiting tool bag today and add fuel to your career.


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