How to detect and hire “A-Players” in Sales: the step-by-step guide

March 31, 2023
min read

"A-players”, everyone wants them, right? 

Who are they and how to attract them? Why are they so important to your organization and where does their performance come from? If you were asking yourself all these questions, you’re in the right place and will find the answers to all your questions here.

What is an  “A-player”? 

An "A-player" is someone who stands out for their skills, performance, results and behavior in the team. They are highly qualified and motivated people, able to make significant changes in their sector. These people are rare and sought after because they add  considerable  value to the company: they often have unique experience and knowledge, a good amount of hustle, grit, GSD attitude and are just a delight to work with. 

What makes them so special?

As natural leaders, "A-players" are self-motivated and able to motivate other team members to achieve ambitious goals. They have a strong work ethic and are very results-oriented, which is why everyone wants them on their team. Ultimately, what makes "A-players" so sought after is their extraordinary ability to adapt, allowing them to be versatile and adjust to ever-changing priorities.

Having someone like this on their team is pretty much the only way to guarantee that you’ll hit your numbers, so you need to figure out how to get their attention !

How can you  attract an “A-player”? 

These are the people who want to reach the top and won't settle for less. If you want them to work for you, you need to convince them that your company is the perfect place to do it. They want to be challenged, grow in their career, and yes, make more money.

Let's dive in!

1-  Be relevant

A-players need to see a clear progression in their career in order to consider the role you have to offer, so make sure that the position you have available is considered a step up in their career. Recruiting an Account Executive focusing on Mid-Market? Consider reaching out to folks who have sold within SMBs:

  • There’s a good chance they’ve closed deals that were a little larger than the initial scope so they’ve already proven that they can close in a more complex environment
  • It’s a progression in their career
  • If they’re not getting a promotion internally, they’ll want to go get that promotion somewhere else, and this is where you come in.

2- Be timely

Usually, someone in Sales will need 12 (SMB) to 36 months (Enterprise) before they can safely establish that they’ve done everything they had to do within the same role, depending on the length of the Sales cycle. So make sure you reach out to them when the time is right on their side.

You also need to take the end of quarters into consideration as they’ll be expecting a few commission checks. 

3- Have them report to someone who's as "good" as them

Building a team of A-players is a big goal for any start-up. It can be the difference between success and failure. Making A-players work with people as good as them can lead to a more productive, collaborative, and engaged team with a positive work culture.

When A-players work with people as good as them, they have the opportunity to learn from each other and collaborate on projects. This can lead to new ideas and innovations that can benefit the entire organization. They are more likely to feel challenged and fulfilled in their work, it leads to better results. 

“A-players hire A-players; B-players hire C-players.Steve jobs

4- Allocate great compensation and equity

As always, money talks. “ A-Players” know their worth and won't stick around if they don't feel valued. So, it's essential to offer them a good salary. Offering equity in the company can be an attractive element of compensation, especially for candidates who are willing to be part of the start-up.

Being transparent with them  according to the salary range helps to set realistic expectations and build trust between the two parties.

5- Get to know them personally

Getting to know someone personally takes time and requires building a relationship based on mutual respect and trust. You will have to spend a lot of time together, so the candidate must trust you. To build this relationship, you may ask questions about their backgrounds, their family, hobbies etc.

This demonstrates that you really care about them and not only in a professional way. It is possible to create this bond thanks to team lunches, happy hours or even activities organized by the company. 

6- Introduce them to the highest internal stakeholders

During the introduction, it’s important to introduce the “A-player” personally to the highest internal stakeholder because it helps establish a connection between them. It’s an opportunity for the stakeholder to ask questions, provide comments and for the candidates, to highlight its qualifications and show his interests in the company/ job. 

"When I interview someone, I always share critical information in a very casual manner, and observe how the person uses it. A-players possess a natural ability to leverage this information to their advantage, and demonstrate mental flexibility to incorporate new elements while identifying useful information."

- Stephan Dietrich, Founder of Neolane (sold to Adobe for $600m)

7- Don’t give them the BS interview process

You can maximize the interview process, first of all it has to last between two or three weeks. If it’s longer, it’s possible that they’ll accept another opportunity so be fast ! You may clearly define the job requirements, involve multiple interviewers to have a more objective evaluation thanks to different points of view. 

Providing timely and constructive feedback can help build a positive reputation for the company and involve the candidate’s experience. 

8- Sell them on the story and the vision 

When candidates are considering a job offer, they’re often looking for more than a salary and benefits package. They wanna work for a company that has values, vision and clear missions. Selling the company’s story and vision enables them to attract those who share the company’s values and goals.

To make everything more concrete, you must talk about numbers, growth, percentages, opportunities & threats, room for growth, who else is successful, why are they successful.

9- Current success and how repeatable they are

No one wants to join a company where 20% if the entire sales team is hitting their quota. As much as you're expecting transparency from candidates, you also need to show the cards you're holding. Maybe not everyone is hitting quota but there's a logical explanation? Do tell, because A-players will also cut through BS pretty fast, and your lack of transparency will be a major turn-off.

10- Give them the title they’re going after

Giving  candidates the title they're purchasing can be beneficial in several ways. You can attract top talent, increase motivation and help them to align the job title with their career goals. The main benefit of giving the wanted title is when it comes to career advancement opportunities : it includes promotion to higher positions, access to new roles or departments, new responsibilities etc.  It's a win-win situation for both the employer and the employee. 

11- The challenge has to be considered a progression in their career 

Provide opportunities for growth and development, A-players are typically high achievers who are driven to succeed. Providing opportunities for growth and development will help keep them engaged and motivated. Because they are creative and innovative thinkers,  fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement is a big plus.

Just putting job ads on your website is not going to cut it. You have got to cast a wide net by using different channels like social media, job boards, asking for referrals, and even headhunting agencies. You want a bunch of different people to apply and bring different perspectives to the table.

Don't forget to do background checks too! You  have got to make sure the people you hire actually did what they say they did. Talk to their old bosses, colleagues, and mentors to get the scoop on what kind of worker they are.

“If you don’t have A-players, you can’t build a great company.” Mark Cuban

12 - Move fast

Being timely and fast when it comes to hiring “A-Players” is important because they are in high demand and may be considering multiple job offers. Once you identify an “A-player”, move quickly with your hiring process, more than 3 to 4 weeks and you're at risking of seeing them accept another offer.

That's the flipside of hiring A-Players: they need to realize that you're an A-Player as well.

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