The Impact of Management Style

The Impact of Management Style

In addition to the three roles, we also discovered that salespeople attribute a certain style to managers they perceive as being more successful. Based on the responses of those interviewed, an “enabling” management style facilitates the sales manager’s ability to execute the three roles, thereby facilitating salesperson peak performance.

While the indicators that point to an enabling management style cannot be specifically linked to success, respondents perceive their importance in fulfilling the three key roles. Although the sales professionals we interviewed often characterized sales managers on a continuum between polar extremes, we noted that these descriptions were usually based on the relative success of the manager.

Those identified as having an enabling manager style were more successful meeting quotas, while those with an inhibiting style were reported to have turnover and revenue problems. Even though this style of management is not a requirement, it does make things much easier and contributes to the creation of more loyal staff committed to exceeding organizational goals. The key attributes of the Enabler are:

  • Consistently considers different perspectives.

  • Listens to the concerns of individuals with compassion and patience.

  • Keeps promises and leads by example.

  • Exhibits enthusiasm, confidence, commitment, and honesty.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

While sales managers may feel trapped in the middle of the high-performing sales organization, they are not alone. Other parts of the organization, such as training and development, marketing, and senior executives, will have great influence over whether the sales manager will be able to succeed in each of these roles.

It is important to remember that not all competencies, or even a high level of proficiency in each, are required for all situations. In fact, there are many instances when a sales manager only needs to draw on one or two of the roles. Ultimately, however, all three roles are required to optimize the performance of the sales team. Even a team of “superstars” needs a manager who can successfully navigate all three. Our research found that while sales managers typically excel in one of these roles and demonstrate strengths and weaknesses in others, very few managers have mastered all three.

Therefore, an integrated curriculum should be created that helps sales managers bridge from selling skills into these competencies. One organization, well on its way in such development work, began by evaluating their managers using a competency assessment. As a direct result, they initiated a 30 percent turnover in their management team. They simply felt like they had too many of the wrong people in the wrong positions. Sometimes this kind of aggressive restructuring can be beneficial. Other times, it will distract and derail an organization. The key is to have a clear set of standards established such that you can make an accurate assessment of sales manager talent.

Chapter 8: Creating a Culture for Winning Sales


“Everything we do, including recruiting, training, and recognition, reinforces our culture. In the end we know that we win sales by having stable, high-flying, high-charged sales reps who are caught up in what they do.”
—Sales Manager

Successful sales strategies depend on the ability of the sales organization to create a culture that supports and reinforces the decisions, activities, goals, and behaviors required to execute the strategy. Moreover, the culture must maintain strategy momentum, transform the vision of the strategy into action, and ensure that everyone is aligned and committed to success.

Although culture is a rather abstract notion, particularly for salespeople who are focused on tactics and bottom-line results, the symbols, expectations, and behaviors that define and reinforce a culture are very real and tangible. This chapter focuses on the importance of a sales culture in executing strategies, and the critical need for thinking about developing the best sales culture as a strategy unto itself. The chapter is not about recommending the best culture to adopt but it’s more about the important components or characteristics that a culture must possess to successfully implement strategies that win sales.

Each of the strategies discussed in this book, such as consultative selling, sales and customer segmentation, and customer resource management (CRM) system implementation, require cultural alignment and support. For example, a consultative selling strategy requires a customer-focused culture, representing a shift, for many organizations, from focusing on selling products to selling solutions that increase customer productivity and value. Similarly, successful CRM strategies require a sales culture that facilitates and supports the adoption of CRM applications by making it a part of everyone’s daily business activities.

A well-defined culture is particularly important for salespeople because they are physically separated from the rest of the organization and therefore require some type of formal structure to guide their behavior in the absence of everyday reinforcement from managers and colleagues. Because salespeople often wear several hats in addition to selling, such as customer service, marketing, and administrative, norms and values are required to help clarify role ambiguities. Moreover, culture defines immediate rewards that are important when tangible sales results take time to materialize. In addition, the sales force presents an important face of the company to customers and the outside world. As such, salespeople must accurately communicate and model the culture in the marketplace so that the company’s reputation and image are properly conveyed. If the culture is not well defined, customers may get mixed signals about what type of company their salesperson represents.

While creating a sales culture is important for guiding behavior and establishing norms and standards for the organization, a culture is only effective when it is aligned with the company’s objectives, strategies, industry, and business environment, which will be discussed in more detail later in this chapter. First, we’ll define culture and focus on why it’s important for winning sales.