“A-Players” In Sales: 4 Secret Characteristics Of Top Performers

characterstics top salespeople

How To Be A Top Salesperson

When running a sales organization, every manager knows that there are different kinds of players you can have on your team. They usually come in 3 categories: the A-Players, the B-Players, and the C-Players. For the most part, people seem to agree on what defines a C-player and a B-player. In this article, we’ll uncover what makes an A-Player in sales and why they tend to get the best opportunities in sales.


The C-players are the people that are usually a little lower in the ranks because, as we’d expect, they do the bare minimum to get by. They’re the ones who seem to get their work done just barely one time. They also tend to make excuses and need more attention/coaching during 1 on 1’s and quarterly reviews than others to get their performance up to a satisfactory level.

As a manager, these are the players you want to avoid because they’ll be the ones that can turn into time sinks and even negatively impact your team’s culture and productivity. As an individual contributor, this is the category you want to avoid falling into. It will destroy your chances at upward mobility, and even more so, if things happen to take a turn for the worst, you’ll likely be among the first on the chopping block.


B-Players are consistent and reliable performers. You can rely on them to get the job done correctly and in a timely fashion when something needs to get done. They have a solid understanding of what is expected of them and do what it takes to deliver on that expectation. B-players need little to no coaching but can keep their productivity at the level it needs.

However, there may be a little pushback when something requires them to go above and beyond their job description or put in more hours than is necessary. Regardless, these are still people you want to keep on your team as they are essential for maintaining a well-run and organized business.

best sales talent


It’s well accepted that these individuals go above and beyond duty. These are the “5-star recruits” that you want to attract and hold onto as long as you possibly can because they are the ones that can truly help move your business forward.

The qualities of an A-player are more widely debated because different characteristics are more important depending on the manager and industry the individual is working. That said, here’s a short list of qualities that would apply universally to an A player regardless of someone’s industry.

1. They reach for stretch goals and hold themselves to a higher standard.

Stretch goals are those objectives that are just beyond our reach, and so many of us choose not to set them. Instead, we may opt for something more achievable to feel good about ourselves when we meet our goals. A-players, however, do not share this same restraint. Instead, they put aside all fears and purposefully push themselves beyond their limits, understanding that it’s only when they are forced out of their comfort zone that they can grow the most.

Another reason A players are so valuable is the higher standard they hold for themselves. Unlike a B-player whose lack of motivation may influence what they see in a C-player colleague and ultimately have their productivity drop, the A player will keep chugging at their average pace. They are utterly undeterred by others and entirely motivated by their desire to succeed. Best of all, they have the complete opposite effect on the team’s culture and productivity that a C-player has. Where a C-player may negatively impact a B-player’s productiveness, an A-player can bring up the motivational energy in both the B-players and C-players.

2. They understand the importance of teamwork and communication.

It’s probably not uncommon for an A-player to prefer getting work done independently as they usually see themselves as the most capable people for the job. Still, at the same time, they’ll recognize when something is beyond their bandwidth and will effectively employ the help of their colleagues to get the job done. For example, in an organization that has a role for a Solutions Consultant (SC) or Solutions Engineer (SE), an A-player Sales Rep will recognize that they don’t need to invest all their time and effort in preparing for an upcoming demo. Instead, they’ll make more effective use of their time by focusing on managing the relationship with their prospect and effectively communicating the wants, needs, and pains to their SC/SE so that they can be topics of focus during the presentation.

They’re also the ones who often make that extra effort to ensure everyone is on the same page.

When dealing with prospects, they ask questions like

“Am I understanding that correctly?” or “So you’re telling me x, y and z. Did I hear that right?”.

They understand that sometimes you need to slow things down to speed things up, so they put in the extra effort to make sure that they are as straightforward as possible in their communication to avoid any confusion and issues down the line.

Jon Miller, Co-founder of both Marketo and Engagio, once said,

“The most successful reps are often the most paranoid. They are always on the lookout for what could go wrong and take proactive measures to prevent them.”

A-players also understand that recognition for good work does not have to be a zero-sum game. When the team works towards a successful endeavor, they readily give credit where credit is due, understanding that this builds trust and more effective collaboration amongst the group in the future. They truly embody what the definition of a “team player” is.

find top sales people

3. They are in tune with the company’s vision and take initiative.

A-players don’t need to be told what to do. At any given point, they understand the company’s goals and objectives and take action towards these goals of their own accord. They don’t worry about the minimum metrics required of them by the company and instead keep their focus on results and the bigger picture. They understand that reaching their hundred dials or two hundred emails will ultimately amount to almost nothing if they’re not being sent to the right people with the right message and towards the right objectives.

Additionally, these people aren’t afraid to act on their own and don’t feel the need to always ask for permission. These individuals have the confidence to do so because they can put themselves in management’s shoes and understand what the best courses of action are moving forward. This is mainly what makes them attractive to their managers in the future as candidates for promotions and is usually why they’re even considered in the first place.

4. They can put the good of the company before their own.

This doesn’t mean that A-players are people you can easily take advantage of. On the contrary, that’s a surefire way to ensure you lose these A-players. Since A-players are so capable, they’re usually brilliant people with a strong level of intuition. Therefore, once they sense that they’re being treated or paid unfairly, they’ll be quick to find another opportunity that better suits their standards. A-players may choose to focus on their careers over their personal lives, but they won’t stand to have it imposed on them.

Instead, what this means is that A players are those who can take a look at a situation and play through in their heads what the repercussions of their decisions will be. For example, they may understand they could make a false promise to a potential customer to make the sale and make a quick buck quickly. However, they’re able to foresee that in doing so, they are setting the company and customer success team up for failure and therefore opt for the high road of doing right by the customer, even if it means offering a discount or preceding the deal altogether if there truly isn’t a good fit.

They’re also the ones that aren’t afraid to lend a helping hand to those in need. If a teammate is struggling to fill their pipeline and actively voices a request for help, these guys are willing to take a moment to provide some advice on how to get their colleagues back on the right track. I’ve seen many A-players take the time to help their colleagues practice their pitches and demos, even offering to join them on their following calls as support, often without expecting anything in return.

find new sales job

Find an A-Player

A-players in sales stand out not just for their ability to achieve impressive results, but more importantly, for their foresight, integrity, and commitment to the long-term success of both their company and their customers. By prioritizing ethical practices and thoughtful decision-making over short-term gains, these top performers ensure sustainable growth and foster trust, both within their teams and in the relationships they build with clients.

Their approach goes beyond mere sales tactics; it reflects a deeper understanding of the value of honesty and strategic thinking in creating lasting business success and strong customer relationships. Ultimately, these A-players embody the ideal blend of skill, ethics, and vision that sets the benchmark for excellence in the sales industry.

Get approached by tech companies offering tech sales jobs.