Sales Performance: What’s It REALLY All About?

Dr. Janice Presser

By Dr. Janice Presser, CEO of The Gabriel Institute

It’s been said that the only deal some salespeople are really good at closing is the one that gets them hired. High turnover rates in sales departments suggest this may be more common than anyone cares to admit!

Clearly, Sales management knows what it wants from salespeople. They test for it, background-check for it, and they interview endlessly for it, yet hiring errors keep happening. So there must be something missing in the process. Something that can tell when, even though it looks, walks, and talks like a sales pro, it’s not going to SELL like one.

There’s a relevant point to the story that follows, so please bear with this “true confession.”

I’m a behavioral scientist by training. I know a great deal about interviewing. I used to do a lot of forensic work, where your impressions need to have a foundation that is strong enough to stand up in court. I’m actually pretty good at this. And I’m a mother. I have a daughter who’s in her 30s now. She’s mine—I mean I was there when she was born—and despite the ongoing “interview” that is part of the mother-daughter relationship, I never really GOT what she was all about.

When she was in her early 20s and the company she worked for moved too far away, she looked for a new job and, like a classic clueless parent, I started in with suggestions. She said to me, “Mom, I just want to help people.” So I said, “Become a therapist—we help people.” She looked at me like I had three heads and said, “No, I don't want to do that—I just want to HELP people.”

“OK then, so become a social worker,” I said.

“NO, I JUST WANT TO HELP PEOPLE,” she shot back. 

Luckily this was happening at the time my colleague and I were doing initial validation studies on Role-Based Assessment—a technology we created to measure how, and in what way, people will “team” with each other. I asked her to take it. She did love to do assessments, even though she’d always says they didn’t get her either. 

When the results came in, I was floored. She was NOTHING like I thought. Guilt set in. How could I be so far from understanding my own daughter? I must be a bad mother...and maybe not so good at judging behavior either!

Naturally, I had expected her to be something like me. But she is NOTHING like me. In fact, her approach to working with other people is one I never appreciated, simply because I didn’t understand it. The “RBA” report enabled me to see clearly how different her way of “helping people” is from mine—and at the same time, how important it is.

Anyway, I started to respect her for who she is, and our relationship improved enormously. I mean I’m still an “idiot mom” a lot, but at least now I can tell when I’m off-target.

So what does this have to do with Sales performance? Well, my daughter is now the queen of customer service in a large corporation. Why? Because all she wants to do is help people! And the funny thing is, in her job, “helping people” is all about listening closely, understanding people’s needs, reassuring them, and guiding them to the “best fit.” In the process, she inspires tremendous customer loyalty and does a huge amount of upselling and add-on selling.

Are the “teaming” metrics produced by TGI Role-Based Assessment the missing ingredient in predicting sales performance? We think so. “Coherence” tells you if a salesperson will work with clients and colleagues in a positive, constructive way. “Role” and “Teaming Characteristics” enable the correct pairing of a particular person with a particular type of selling (high-concept vs. technical vs. status-oriented, etc.) And RBA is objective, while interviewing never is.

Sales is a team sport. These days, if you want to win, you need a BETTER way to pick top-quality team players…and to put them in the right positions.

Dr. Janice Presser is CEO of The Gabriel Institute, which created Role-Based Assessment. She offers readers of SMM a “no-cost solution” for a hiring problem (contact her at For organizations looking for ways to improve sales performance, TGI also can provide pilot programs in sales hiring and sales teambuilding.