I got into it with a ‘sales expert’ yesterday. He told me that “sales is a warrior’s job and the warrior works alone.” I thought, don’t bet your moccasins on that.

It’s true that the best salespeople seem to be ‘hunters’ and not ‘gatherers’. But it’s also true that the most valuable hunters are the ones who hunt for the good of their tribe—not just for themselves. In sales, these hunters remain true to their mission. The needs of their tribe take precedence over their personal interests.

[Cut to scene in forest clearing, as the famed hunter returns to village with his kill.]

Hunter: “Chief, I bring back this white crow. What a great challenge it was to stalk and kill it. What perfect aim of my arrow. My skills as a hunter are unsurpassed!

Chief: “There are fifty mouths to feed, and you call this dinner?”

Hunter: “Ingrate!”

There’s more to being a great salesperson than closing deals. Let’s suppose that sales dollar volume is being met, but most of the ‘wins’ are on low-margin existing product, or product that is in short supply, when the company really needs to move the new high-margin product line, or to reduce excess inventory. Where does that leave you? And what if you have a sales ‘superstar’ who surpasses quota by telling customers just what they want to hear, without a care that the Support, Tech, and/or Production teams will have to miss deadlines and burn up time and cash trying to meet unrealistic expectations.

The complete picture of what if means to ‘team well’ in sales goes well beyond short-term relationships and results. To be a high-quality team player, a salesperson must remain in alignment with, and committed to delivering on:

  • Customer needs and concerns
  • Product ‘fit’, functionality, and roadmap
  • Support team availability and capabilities
  • The company’s short-term management and financial objectives
  • The company’s long-term marketing and strategic objectives

One of my colleagues knows a salesman who works for a very large company that markets enterprise software systems to manufacturers. This person has no crocodile cowboy boots and sports no Rolex watch. He’s actually a little scruffy—just a regular guy who will occasionally put on a sport coat. And yet, year after year, he is the company’s top salesman by a margin of two or three times over the runner-up. Why? Because—as anyone who has worked with this fellow will tell you—he knows the market, he knows the product, AND he is a phenomenal team player.

There is some irony in the fact that Sales Management always looks for people with the right experience and the right personality, when they really should be looking for people with the right experience, who also team well. There’s a big difference between the two.

Long ago, personality testing showed conclusively that most people in the sales profession have high levels of extraversion and aggressiveness. As a result, these traits are considered to be a sort of ‘pass-fail’ measure in hiring for sales. But if you look at most sales organizations, you find high levels of failure to achieve objectives, and high turnover. So while extraversion and aggressiveness have a lot to do with getting involved in sales jobs, they don’t seem to have all that much to do with selling successfully.

Could it be that the ability to ‘team well’ with others is the missing piece of the puzzle? Well, that’s one of the questions I had in mind over 25 years ago, when a colleague and I began our search for a way to measure what happens when people team together. And now that ‘teaming characteristics’ (and other closely related qualities of human interaction) can actually be measured and reported, it is possible to demonstrate just how much selling value a quality team player can deliver.

So, Mr. Sales Expert, it’s time for you to eat crow.

This post originally appeared in InnovationDAILY, September 26, 2010.


If you’re a CEO like me, you have high expectations for everyone. I mean really high. If we work this hard, shouldn’t everyone? If we knuckle down and deal with tough problems, shouldn’t others do it with the same gusto? And if we can nail down value points and key indicators like a pneumatic hammer, why does it seem that others are pounding with rocks.

We aren’t the only ones. There are probably lots of people in your organization who feel ‘alone at the top’ of their team. It’s frustrating, but guess what: there’s no where it’s more frustrating than in HR.

Finance has the tools and the data to generate projections. And Operations can give you production metrics. Sales has the top line numbers. Even Purchasing can tell you how much money they’re saving as they upgrade the old coffeepot to the fancy barista station. But HR? Their hard measures are things that keep you up at night, like rising health insurance costs! HR’s other metrics- turnover, onboarding speed, and engagement – never quite seem to ‘measure up’ in terms of business value.

So consider this: all those other executive functions have tools that allow them to analyze needs, identify best options, and demonstrate solution value, while HR has disparate databases, training programs that don’t measure outcomes, personality tests from the middle of the last century, and metrics that neither speed nor simplify management decision making.

Here’s an alternative. Let them you know want them to have the tools they need to prove their business value. Then direct them to The Gabriel Institute and tell them to ask for your old friend Dr. Janice. I’ll take it from there.

Dr. J

P.S. Our solutions cost little, predict how people will perform in teams, build the strength and productivity of your human infrastructure, and deliver measurable business value. Just give HR a little time to learn how to apply them. You WON’T be disappointed.

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