The Secret to Becoming an A-Player

“Ralph, what’s the secret to becoming an A-player?” Salespeople ask me this all the time.

On the one hand, salespeople genuinely don’t know, but want to improve their game. On the other hand, deep down, they really do know the answer, but still don’t apply what they know.

“What It Takes” is What A-Players Do

Look, every organization has A-players, and they’re easy to spot. On the sales team, for example, they’re the ones consistently hitting quota, responding to your requests for guidance, and leading by example.

Here’s some good news: You can be an A-player, too. It’s in you. You must simply hack away at everything that isn’t A-player material. Act like an A-player and you will become an A-player.


(I wonder if Davide applied Ramit’s answer.)

While you prepare to leave the B team (or, um…the C team), ask yourself if you’re ready to:

  • Hustle until you no longer have to introduce yourself
  • Stop working on (or sending out) your resume
  • Get rid of your goals and start creating systems
  • Write and speak like a boss
  • Hang out with people better than you
  • Do the work no one else wants to do (on your own and without direction)
  • Adjust your attitude
  • Perform at the highest levels and deliver results
  • Do the right thing, especially when no one is looking
  • Raise your standards
  • Focus on winning, while others focus on being like you

And that’s just the short list! A-players possess characteristics and disciplines that would make your head spin.

A-Players Are on the Right-Side

Often times, you’ll hear a sales leader say, “I wish I had five of so-and-so!” If they had their druthers, bosses would have an entire team of A-players. When it comes to an A-player, the only thing bosses worry about is how much longer they’ll have the A-player on the team.

The reality is, not everyone’s “there” yet. In early 2016, my friend John Barrows and I spoke to audiences about how to turn core sales performers into top performers. We mentioned the Vitality Curve, a model introduced years ago by former CEO of GE, Jack Welch.

The model says organizations are comprised of 20% A-players (the high performers), 70% B-players (the majority of the group, the ones with potential), and 10% C-players (non-performers who “enervate” instead of “energize” the team).   


(Where are YOU on the Vitality Curve? Image: SIMCON)

Every third of this bell curve comes with consequences:

  • Those in the middle section of the curve need others to motivate them, must find mentors, and require regular coaching.
  • A-players are on the right-side of the curve – and aren’t there long. They’re making the most money, getting recruited from other organizations, and are up for big promotions in their organizations.

Create habits and disciplines that will position you well on the Vitality Curve.

Warm-up Like Stephen Curry

Speaking of disciplines, salespeople must learn from the pre-game routine of 2-time MVP, Stephen Curry.

Curry’s pre-game system is a lesson that repetition is the mother of skill, what you focus on is what you feel, and you are what you repeatedly do.

Check out how Steph gets ready for each game:


(You mean, he does the same exercises over and over before each game?)

Curry drills the fundamentals: ball handling, shooting, and passing. How good are you at practicing the basics every day or every week? How badly do you want to become, and remain, an A-player?

The best sales development reps (SDRs) also drill the fundamentals. Compared to Curry, they constantly sharpen their writing, speaking, and selling skills.


(What does your “pre-game routine” look like?  Oh, you don’t have one?)

Stop Reading and Start Working

There is no secret to becoming an A-player. In fact, those who ask already know the answer. If you look for A-players, they’ll appear.

Decide to develop A-player attributes. Concentrate on delivering results. Learn to communicate well. Differentiate yourself from the B and C-players in your organization. Demonstrate a work ethic like Stephen Curry. Master the fundamentals, yet continue to practice them.

Get great at your craft. And the next time a salesperson asks me what the secret is, I’ll let you answer.

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