What is an A-Player in Sales?

The term (or a portmanteau?) that we all hear a lot in sales management is “A-Player” and you typically hear it in “you should only hire A-Players”. 

But what does that mean – what is the definition of an “A-Player” in sales?

Here is a great definition – see this video by Matt Sharrers at SBI / Sales Benchmark Index, a global sales & GTM consulting firm. 

As Matt says, an A-Player in sales is somebody who has a 90% chance of performing in the top 10% for the specified compensation level and Matt refers to the “Topgrading for Sales” book where he gleaned that definition.

Whether it’s a CRO or a VP of Sales or a sales rep, this definition is applicable across the board. So if you want an A-Player then what you are really seeking is to recruit somebody who has a 90% chance of performing in the top 10% and – and note this carefully – for the specified compensation level.  

A-Player does not mean that it’s someone who produces 150% of quota every year and all the time… of course this would be an A-Player without a doubt but that is not the definition of the term A-Player and shouldn’t be over-used as such because it sends unreasonable expectations that will cause misalignment after you hire someone.  However, there are good sales professionals who are A-Players and typically have a 90% chance to be in the top 10% of their pay class.