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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Pay Attention to Your Superstars, but Don’t Forget Your Rock Stars

superstar and rock star sellersAs a department project, our group read the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott. Everyone had a different primary takeaway, but the one that stuck with me was the difference between Superstars and Rock Stars.

What's the Difference between a Superstar and a Rock Star?

Most managers know the definition of a Superstar. They are usually your one or two top performers, who are hardworking, ambitious, great at what they do, expect to be paid that way, and love the accolades.

But what about your Rock Stars? Rock Stars were defined as your steady performers. Not flashy, not necessarily your top performers, but the ones you can count on. Steady as a rock. Both groups are vital to a sales team. In fact, most companies would fall apart without Rock Stars, but usually, only the Superstars get the attention. Why? And why should you care?

Superstar sellers are usually the people making the big flashy sales, and they hold their hand out expecting more commission, bigger incentives, and larger accounts. And most of the time, they get it. They know their worth, and in their eyes (and their managers) they are worth a lot. If they think they deserve a raise, they’ll tell you. If they think they deserve praise, they’ll tell you that too.

Often, Rock Stars are different. They hesitate to request more money because, while their contribution is absolutely vital to the health of the team, it isn’t as flashy. Many times, your Rock Stars quietly carry the load and seethe inside because they aren’t being recognized or rewarded, while the Superstars are.

Many managers don’t realize just how much they rely on their Rock Stars until one of them leaves, often because they aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. The problem most often is that their Rock Star was quietly waiting for a raise to be offered or praise to be given, hoping that their contribution will be recognized. When they don’t get what they didn’t ask for, they are likely to find another job, where the same thing tends to happen. So how can you stop this vicious cycle?

Don't Lose Your Rock Stars!

Recognize your Rock Stars! When I conduct personal feedback with AE's who likely fall into that Rock Star category, I hear over and over, "I don’t need (or have time for) public recognition. Just tell me what I need to do and let me do it." Sounds great right? Easy, right? Not so much. Because those same people will also tell me that they left their last job because they weren’t recognized. They tell their manager during onboarding that they don’t need praise, their manager takes them at their word, and then they tell HR in their exit interview that they are leaving because they didn’t receive enough praise.

Praise and Positive Feedback

What’s a manager to do? First, regardless of what they tell you, everyone needs positive feedback and recognition. What’s important is how it's offered. If they tell you they don’t have time for, or are uncomfortable with, you standing them up in front during a sales meeting, offer to send them an email, either cc’ing the group or just privately to them. Still too much? Send them a great job with a thumbs up emoji, and make sure their good performance is recognized in their paycheck.

Pay and Personal Interest

If you look at your steady load-bearers and realize your team would fall apart without them, you should be paying them that way. And don’t forget to foster a relationship with them. You don’t have to be "besties," but you do need to take a personal interest in them - both professionally and personally. Always remember the mantra, "People join a company, but leave a manager." Be the manager that no one wants to leave.

Communication and Conversation

Finally, encourage your Rock Stars to speak up. If they feel they aren’t getting what they deserve, they may not tell you, but they should! Try to draw out their feelings. Do they feel they are recognized enough, or at all? Do they feel they are being fairly treated? Watch their body language. If they are telling you one thing, but their body language is saying something very different, be aware that they may still not be comfortable enough to speak up. You might try a different approach, like taking them out of the office to continue the conversation.

Every team needs a balance of Rock Stars and Superstars. Let both groups know their value, and watch your team thrive.

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