Role identity and attributions of high-performing salespeople

Michelle D. Steward, Michael D. Hutt, Ajith Kumar, Ajith Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose This paper aims to propose and test an exploratory model, illustrating performance differences based on underlying role identities and attributions of salespeople in business markets. Design-methodology-approach The sample consists of 60 salespeople from a Fortune 100 high technology firm responsible for managing multi-million dollar customer projects. Interviews with both salespeople and their sales managers provided the data to examine the relationships among role identities, attributions, and performance. Findings The model suggests that higher-performing salespeople have role identities as sales consultants, whereas lower performers tend to have role identities as technical specialists. Further, those salespeople with sales consultant role identities were more likely to attribute success to relational factors, whereas salespeople with technical specialist role identities were more likely to attribute success to technical factors. There were no significant relationships among role identities and attribution type in unsuccessful customer engagements. Research limitations-implications While multiple sources of data were obtained from both salespeople and sales managers, all the respondents were from one large multinational organization. Practical implications The link between role identity and attributions provides opportunities for situation-based sales training programs, and sheds new light on performance differences among salespeople. Originality-value The paper isolates role identity as a potential driver of salesperson performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-473
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Business & Industrial Marketing
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 28 2009


  • Business-to-business marketing
  • Configuration management
  • Relationship marketing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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