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Rock Stars vs Superstars

It takes different characters with different attributes to make a successful sales team. Let’s meet Rock Stars and Superstars. Do you recognise them in your organisation?

All high-performance sales teams need stars, but stars shine in different ways. In her book, Radical Candor, Kim Scott put forward the concept of Rock Stars and Superstars. These two different types of salesperson are both excellent in their way, but to get the best from them, you have to manage them differently. Let’s find out more.

Rock Stars

I’m not talking about Lady Gaga or Ed Sheeran here. In this instance, Rock Stars are solid, dependable, like they’re made of rock. They’re the consistent performers who you can always rely on to pull their weight in the team. They’re not flashy, so they sometimes miss out on the attention, but on the other hand, they don’t cause many problems

You need Rock Stars in your team because they are a force for stability. In fact, you might not realise how much you rely on them until they’re no longer there.

Rock Stars generally carry themselves as if they are content with their lives and they don’t rock the boat by asking for promotions or pay raises. This can sometimes be misinterpreted as a lack of ambition, but it may just be that they are happy where they are, or their goals lie outside of the workplace. They are on a gradual growth trajectory.


Superstars, on the other hand, are the big personalities in the team. They are the ones that bring in the big results, but they make sure everyone in the office knows it! They make demands for their leaders’ attention, not least when they’re pushing for pay raises and promotions.

Superstars are agents of change in the team. Being the highest-performers, in general, it is your Superstars who will take your team to a higher level. However, they want to change their own situation too, with rapid progression. They are always looking for new opportunities. Their growth trajectory is much steeper.

A team of Rock Stars and Superstars

The best sales teams are made up of Rock Stars and Superstars, with both types equally fulfilled and motivated. However, this is a challenge to achieve.

Firstly, you have to get the ratio right. A team with too many Super Stars will explode through force of personality. Leaders do not have an infinite supply of attention, commission and promotions. On the other hand, a team with too many Rock Stars will struggle to achieve the growth levels you need.

The secret is to give Rock Stars and Superstars the right opportunities at the right time. Look at the growth trajectories each person wants to be on, then ensure they can stay on that course if they continue to perform. Don’t burn out your Rock Stars and don’t bore your Superstars.

Managing Rock Stars and Superstars

You won’t get the best from your Rock Stars or Superstars if you only lead in one way. To sum up the best way to manage each of them; recognise your Rock Stars, challenge your superstars.

Rock Stars may carry their load without complaining, but it’s highly likely they would like to be praised and rewarded just as much as the Superstars. In fact, behind that easy-going demeanour, they may be seething about the Superstars stealing the limelight! To get the best from your Rock Stars:

  • Recognise their efforts
  • Proactively offer bonuses and raises, don’t wait for them to ask
  • Get them speaking more in the team about the best way to do things

For Superstars, the trick is to keep them motivated, without promoting them above their level of expertise

  • Challenge them to perform at a higher level
  • Give them opportunities to learn new skills
  • Ensure they have mentors to help them achieve their ambitions
  • Give your Superstars the chance to help teach new starters

Finally, Rock Stars can become Superstars and vice versa. Don’t put a permanent label on your team members. Check their performance and levels of ambition for signs of a switch.

Over to you

It takes a variety of characters to make a sales team successful. Your role as a leader is to maintain that success and then build on it. Rock Stars and Superstars are essential parts of your team, make sure you keep them all performing.

Now, I’d like to know what you think. What other characteristics of Rock Stars and Superstars do you see in your team? What do you do to keep them all performing to the best of their ability?