Do you want more stars or backup singers on your sales team?

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The San Francisco International Film Festival is happening, and one of my favorites so far is a documentary called Twenty Feet from Stardom. It’s about the lives of backup singers, their amazing talent, and how their contributions have put artists such as Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springstein, Sting, Sheryl Crow, David Bowie, Patti Austin, and many more on the map.

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Many backup singers have talent that surpasses the stars, but they choose not to be in the spotlight. One is Lisa Fisher, a talented force of nature, who has sung backup with the Stones since 1986. Her reason for not striking out on her own: “I don’t want to hide my face when I go out in public, I don’t want all the media pressure.” But some who do strike out are very successful. Did you know that Luther Vandross was a backup singer for David Bowie before he went out on his own?

Sales organizations have their own version of big stars and backup singers — your A-B-C performers. When managers stack rank their performers, the A-performer is the sales superstar. They consistently produce, they lead the team, and they may bring in the bigger revenue numbers. Being the A-performer carries lots of responsibility and higher expectations to maintain and even exceed the success they have already created.

The B or C performers are your backup singers. They  may not get as much attention, and the expectations are not so high. But the talent is still there, they will produce consistent numbers that managers can depend on each month. Some B and C performers are perfectly content being backup singers. They have talent, they don’t have the ambition to get out there and lead the team. And that’s okay. There’s more to the Stones than Mick Jagger.

As the inside sales job market continues to heat up and companies are looking to aggressively hire top talent, managers don’t need to dedicate all their time to chasing down the superstars. Look for the great backup singers: the B performers your can rely on quarter after quarter to consistently bring in the revenue numbers.



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