Authors and Consultants | GP Strategies Corporation

top performer

How to Handle Differing Opinions on What Makes a Top Performer

Image courtesy of franky242 at

Image courtesy of franky242 at

Rarely does everyone agree on how a particular job or role should be performed. As an insurance adjuster friend used to say: “My job is to sort out all the versions of the truth to find the true truth.” That’s often our job: sorting out the various opinions, often strongly held, to decide how the job should be mapped.

Differences of opinion usually occur in two flavors:

  • Between performers
  • Between performers and managers

The first is the hardest to discern and the easiest to deal with. The key is to rely on the business goals established at the beginning of the project. (You did clarify the business goals, right?)

Recently a pharmaceutical company was planning a new product launch and wanted to improve its sales landscape to help ensure a successful launch. To that end, the management team wanted to identify the top performers across the sales force. The initial list was based simply on the top sales producers. But when we dug in more deeply, the managers realized that just being a top producer might not be the best metric for helping the new product launch. Instead, they established three criteria. They identified the reps who

  • Consistently exceeded sales targets. Sales matter!
  • Reached the highest territory penetration. Having sales from a broad base of customers was considered superior to having lots of sales from a few customers. The goal was to have a broad customer base to launch the new product to.
  • Maintained the highest customer relationship ratings. Better relationships would translate into an increased ability to discuss and introduce the new product.

Needless to say, the second list was significantly different from the first. And the resulting performance map was very different from what it would have been if only top sales producers were included.

The second flavor is the easiest to discern but often the hardest to deal with. Managers will remember how to do the job and want the performance map to be based on those memories. But their memories are often faulty. They are no longer performing the job and therefore don’t have a grasp of the current nuances. The challenge is that they are, after all, managers. And as managers, they want to have the final say. Hence the challenge. Time and energy spent aligning managers to the importance of modeling current top performance is worthwhile.


Question to ponder:

  • Do you understand the desired business impacts enough to properly create a list of top performers?
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