We recently saw the New Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform at the Newport Jazz Festival. We had seen them before, once at the Festival and about 20 years ago in New Orleans when they weren't so "New". That first time, I left their performance with mixed feelings. On one hand, it was terrific that we had a chance to be in the presence of a musical institution and hear their traditional New Orleans Jazz. On the other hand, it was stale, mediocre and failed to move me.
Last weekend, they were fresh, exciting, energized and musically superb! They were relevant again, had made the transition to A-Players and now opened the Festival.
So what changed? They got younger. They finally cut the cord to their very old, slow, stoic band members and brought on some exciting, younger musicians. New blood. The band is now led by 41 year-old tuba player, Ben Jaffe. They embraced technology. Rather than a single microphone in front of a seated band, each musician had a small wireless microphone attached to his horn. That technology has been around for years, but they had not embraced it. Now it allowed for movement and move they did. They were not only mobile, but the newest tuba player, Ronell Johnson, danced around the stage for their entire set in much the same way that Verdine White, the bass player from Earth, Wind and Fire, has done for the past 40 years. Technology gave them mobility which gave them energy and made them exciting to watch and hear.
Turning salespeople into A-players requires the same approach. (I'll be speaking on this topic today, August 13, and you can participate for free!) You need to replace those who have not adapted to the changing times, shown the willingness to learn new methodologies, models and processes, or embraced the newest technology and gone mobile. The new salespeople whom you hire must be exciting enough and strong enough to lead the way, infusing the sales force with new energy, becoming new role models and causing others to follow their lead or be left behind.
Training and coaching play a major part in the development of A-players, but you must have the right people in place or you will waste both time and money training and coaching salespeople who don't have the ability to become A-Players. It's much easier to turn B's to A's then it is to turn C's into B's. And if you already have some A's, it becomes more obvious to the B's that they need to step it up.
After nearly 30 years in the sales development business, I can say without a doubt that the biggest problem which I witness every day is when executives overrate their salespeople. In most companies, the salespeople whom management considers to be A's are nothing more than C's who are hitting easy targets. Their so-called A's appear to be A's only when compared to their under-achieving and non-performing colleagues, but in most cases, the executives have it all wrong. The result is an inability to imagine how much better their sales force could perform and generate revenue as a result of an upgrade, good training and good coaching.
Take the road traveled by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and adapt to these changing times!