Driving positive behaviours
24th September 2018 | Matt Horenkamp
In this research, I conducted an action research project (McNiff & Whitehead, 2006) as a sales manager worker researcher leading six salespeople in the large enterprise business-to-business software market in the United States. I evaluated the applicability of Squire’s Client-Centric Values framework (Squire, 2009) and how its positive behaviours can be driven utilising a balanced approach of transformational and transactional leadership (MacKenzie & Podsakoff, 2001). Data was collected using a three-legged approach of literature review, semi-structured interviews of sales leaders and customers, and weekly journal reflections on my team’s customer and leadership experiences.
The research concluded that sales leaders have a big influence on the positive and negative behaviours their sales team exhibit with customers. Results suggested Squire’s Client-Centric Values framework is a solid reference point sales leaders can use in their professional practice. With this framework, a sales leader can drive positive client-centric behaviours by encouraging their salespeople to understand the customer’s business and invest the time outside of the sales cycle to provide the customer with customer care. It showed that salespeople should display authenticity by acting transparently and honestly, and that client centricity and authenticity must be in place to gain the right to exhibit “proactive creativity” and “tactful audacity”. Finally, the research showed that salespeople should be aware of the limits of pushing the customer on timelines and getting to other customer stakeholders as customers expressed strong distaste for manipulative behaviour (Squire, 2009).
On leadership, the research showed that a balance of transformational and transactional leadership (MacKenzie & Podsakoff, 2001) can be used to influence the use of the positive salesperson behaviours. With transformational leadership, articulating a vision and role modelling stand out as techniques that can be used to influence positive salesperson behaviours. And with setting high performance expectations, it is important to consider the type of sales control system you are using (outcome, behavioural or clan) (Schwepker & Good, 2012) and how the chosen system can be used to keep the accountability for success on the salesperson.
With transactional leadership, the research concluded that it is a double-edged sword. Contingent reward can be highly motivational through non-financial praise. However, the large financial rewards can both incentivise positive behaviours as well as tempt negative behaviours. Contingent punishment proved to be a dual-pathway that can positively or negatively impact salesperson performance depending on how the individual makes sense out of what has happened to them with the punishment (Deng & Leung, 2014).
Exploring co-creating commercial value for customers and company through values-driven leadership.
As a sales manager for one of the largest business-to-business software companies, I am at the intersection of helping customers drive commercial value for their business and the constant drive of my company to sell more software, and sell it sooner. As most sales managers would concede, aligning these goals is a big challenge. Customer priorities and timing do not always align with the company’s goals of selling software to satisfy quarterly revenue targets.
Our large, well-run corporation has great processes, training and loads of talented resources that support us along the way; but mechanics alone will not bridge this intersection. You must also understand the human behaviours and values required to align the goals of the customer and the salesperson’s company – and how a sales manager should lead salespeople to exhibit these behaviours.