Skip to content
  1. Martin Schmalenbach permalink

    Hi Dave,

    Ah, how timely – a great post as ever!

    The question of ‘A’ players, vs ‘B’ & ‘C’ players and what to do with each is a perennial one.

    In the past year or so what I’ve found of use in exploring this subject academically and practically, is the idea that ‘A’ players are ‘integrators’ and ‘C’ players are ‘analysts’. Ideally ‘B’ players are making the effort to become integrators, even if their results aren’t quite there yet… and perhaps it’s not so much about the absolute results from one month or quarter to the next…?

    This notion of integrator vs analyst is one of 7 ‘seismic shifts’ that Michael Watkins, professor of leadership and organizational change at IMD business school, describes as key milestones on the road to becoming a successful CxO.

    It’s actually the second seismic shift, the first being from specialist to generalist… which, incidentally is also, in my mind and for sales people, a key shift.

    Specialist in this context is about focusing on the products and solutions your company offers – in the past people specialized in knowing these, and helped clients out with understanding, selecting and applying their company’s products & services. This is still needed, but handled in a different way, and by different people – not sales people – not any more!! The rise of the internet/WWW, and consensus buying to name just 2 factors, has seen to that.

    In the generalist role you are now focused on the client at a higher level of activity & outcomes, and need to be open, and get the client open, to seeing things more generally first.

    Seismic shift #2 is from analyst to integrator. An analyst in the sales context is looking for reasons to not change their mindset, looking for affirmation that their long-held current mindset is still the right one. I see this behaviour and mindset/attitude in every boot camp we run…

    The integrator is looking for insight, perspective, ideas, seeds of ideas etc for a way forward for the client, drawing these from all manner of sources, much more diverse than a conventional sales person ever would – the conventional sales person isn’t thinking beyond analyzing data to affirm a solution for the client drawn from the seller’s current catalog of products & services. Down that road lies discussions of price and outcomes of commoditization for one, plus less value creation for the client – heck – you as such a sales person might even be HARMING your client longer term!!

    Explore these seismic shifts from Professor Watkins at

    Oh, and one last thing Dave – Merry Christmas to you, your colleagues & family, if we don’t get to chat before the weekend! And thanks for all your posts and discussions in 2017.



    • Martin, it’s always such a pleasure to see you add to the discussion. Thanks for this contribution. I have to look at Watkins’ work.

      Best wishes to you and your family as well. We need to speak soon!

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS