It’s easy, rewarding, and exciting to coach A players. As Selling Power points out, “In sales, A players typically attract a disproportionate percentage of management attention, incentives, resources and pats on the back.” And yet, the success of your organization doesn’t depend on how you coach your top tier talent…

Instead, your organization’s success rests on the quality of the strategies you use to coach and manage your B and C level performers.

B players make up the middle 80% of your team, and these skilled individuals bring depth and stability to your company; slowly improving corporate performance and resilience. If ignored, these valuable players become apathetic or leave in search of more rewarding jobs.

C players make up the bottom 10% of your team, and in one survey, researchers found that high-performing companies are 33% more likely to take deliberate action on C performers than average-performing companies.

Neglecting to invest time and energy into your B and C level performers comes at a major cost; not just in dollars and cents, but also in company morale and retention rates. So, what can your organization do today to ensure you’re getting the most out of your B players, and effectively managing your C players? How can you first identify your B and C players, provide actions to help them achieve and then ensure your senior management team sticks to those actions?

The Challenges

Harvard Business Review points out, “Our understandable fascination with star performers can lure us into the dangerous trap of underestimating the vital importance of the supporting actors.”

B players are valuable. These solid performers counteract the charismatic, sometimes volatile A’s with their committed work ethic, and consistent contributions. An article in Selling Power points out, “They [B players] are steady performers who don’t want (or need) attention, often place a premium on work/life balance, and keep the sales machine running through turmoil in the market and changes in the company.” And yet, these B players still need the benefit of your time, attention, and expertise. “Without recognition, most B players eventually begin to feel they’re being taken for granted,” say leadership experts Thomas J. DeLong & Vineeta Vijayaraghavan, “They disconnect from the soul of the organization and start to look for jobs elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, C players present an entirely different challenge. Many decision makers are hesitant to take action with these C players. And yet, this lack of action can significantly and negatively impact company performance. In fact, 80% of respondents in one study said working for a low performer prevented them from learning, kept them from making greater contributions to the organization, and made them want to leave the company. “You’d be remiss to neglect your C players,” says an article in the Harvard Business Review,

Both B and C players have a major impact on your organization.

A Look at the Numbers

Here are some statistics that demonstrate the current state of B & C level talent in US companies, and how senior management is dealing with that talent.

  • Only 16% of managers strongly agreed that their companies knew who the high and low performers were in the senior ranks.
  • Organizations confident in their talent had higher percentages of salespeople making or exceeding goal (63.5% vs. 41.2%) and had higher win rates of forecasted deals (54.0% vs. 42.1%).
  • 80% of respondents in one study said working for a low performer prevented them from learning, kept them from making greater contributions to the organization, and made them want to leave the company.
  • Sales organizations are over-reliant on their top talent with the top fifth bringing in almost 60% of revenues. Yet, very few know why those top performers are so successful.

The amount of energy you invest in identifying B and C level performers, and the resources you allocate in coaching and managing those performers will significantly impact the success of your organization.

The Bigger Question: How Can This Change?

We know now that B and C performers have major impact on your company’s performance. So, what steps can you take to make the most of both your B and C players, so your company can grow and prosper?

How to Coach B Players

Harvard Business Review  points out that “… companies’ long-term performance – even survival – depends far more on the unsung commitment and contributions of their B players. These capable, steady performers are the best supporting actors of the business world.”   They deserve dedicated, strategic coaching to enhance their performance.

When coaching B players:

  •  Accept the differences between Bs and your high performers: That’s right. Your B players might never be A players. Since so many leaders are A players themselves, it can be hard to value B players who bring a different mindset and skill set.
  •  Consistently give them the benefit of your time: Track the time you spend with each of your performers. Notice discrepancies, and make sure you dedicate the same time to B players as to A players.
  •  Reward B players for their solid, long-term performance: This can be one of the most effective ways in keeping B players motivated, especially if these performers are not benefitting from the same promotions as A players.
  •  Look for opportunities: Discover and seize valuable chances to promote B players sideways within the company. Create valuable roles to keep B player’s growth and career choices open, challenging, and rewarding.
  •  Give them the support they need to thrive: Provide incentives, resources, benefits, and the encouragement that any hard-working individual needs to grow their potential, discover opportunities, and continue providing value for your business.

Your B players are highly valuable to your organization. By investing time and energy into your B player coaching strategy, you are more likely to retain this important talent pool, boost morale, and see consistent long-term performance across your organization.

How to Coach C Players

“Companies need to establish a rigorous, disciplined process for dealing with low-performing managers and they need to treat these people with great respect,” says the Harvard Business Review. It can be extremely challenging to determine the kind of coaching appropriate for C performers. Senior management needs to decide and articulate the specific actions that will be taken with each C player, and defined timelines for those actions.

They must also base the actions on the answers to these six questions:

  1. Does the person want to improve and does he or she demonstrate that desire?
  2. Does this person have some strong skills that are valuable to the company?
  3. Has this person been promoted into a job that is not suitable for his or her skills?
  4. Has the person been in this job for too short a time to evaluate performance?
  5. Is there something in the individual’s personal life that is sapping their energy?
  6. How much warning, support, and time has this person already been given?

Then, one of three types of action need to be taken. The organization needs to either use coaching to improve the C player’s performance in this job, move the C player to a position that is a better fit for his or her skills, or lastly, ask the C performer to leave the company.

Right now, we’ll focus on the first action: improving the C player’s performance through coaching and support.

When coaching C players:

  •  Be clear about expectations and performance standards: make sure you are communicating exactly what you expect from your C players, so they fully-understand their roles.
  •  Lay out specific timelines for achievements: be communicative about what the individual must do in a specific period of time. Use written and defined dates and recorded goals to accomplish.
  •  Share what support the C performer can expect: be clear and communicate about the kind of direction, coaching, resources, and help the C performer will receive moving forward.
  •  Provide hands-on coaching: telling people to improve without providing support is ineffective. Give these poor performers the time and attention they deserve, and the direction and encouragement necessary to achieve the defined goals.
  •  Communicate when expectations are not being met: provide honest feedback about how the C player is performing and where they can improve. Sugar-coating the truth will not help your C players improve.
  •  Hold senior managers accountable: senior leaders should hold managers accountable for building strong talent; carrying out the actions to improve or remove C performers is part of that. Provide the support senior managers need to take action.
  •  Be kind, supportive, and empathetic: it is imperative that – throughout coaching and managing a C player – leaders are respectful and treat C players with dignity and care. Candid feedback and instructive coaching is essential.


If a C player does not improve, senior management must make a decision whether to reappoint the C player to a more suitable job, or ask them to leave the company. Letting a C player suffer in a role that is not suited for them is simply unkind – both to other members of the team, and also to the C player. “I feel there is no greater disrespect you can do to a person than to let them hang out in a job where they are not respected by their peers, not viewed as successful, and probably losing their self-esteem,” says the CEO of Hewlett Packard, “To do that under the guise of respect for people is, to me, ridiculous.”

Taking Action to Elevate Your Organization’s Talent

All companies must – at some time – deal with both B and C performers. It’s the quality of the strategies you choose that either negatively or positively impact your business.

With CORE Ai, you can create and implement an individualized coaching strategy to support and develop each member of your sales team. Doing so will maximizes their skill set and help them achieve peak performance.

Through our coaching intelligence platform, you’ll be empowered to carry out powerful strategies that equip your team to grow.