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What Are the Characteristics of an Effective Sales Manager?

An Exploratory Study
Comparing Salesperson and Sales Manager Perspectives
Author(s): Dawn R. Deeter-Schmelz, Daniel J. Goebel and Karen Norman Kennedy
Source: The Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Winter,
2008), pp. 7-20
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
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Dawn R. Deeter-Schmelz, Daniel J. Goebel, and Karen Norman Kennedy

This study builds on previous research concerning sales manager selection by examining the characteristics of ef
sales managers from two perspectives - that of sales managers and sales representatives. Results of this explorator
indicate that sales representatives assess the effectiveness of sales managers through the managers broad knowled
along with communication, listening, and human relations skills to develop a role as "supporter" of the sales for
managers, on the other hand, believe that their knowledge base along with effective utilization of communication, list
human relations, and organization skills allow them to be more of a "participant" in the sales process, thus streng
their position as an effective sales manager. The implications of this and other findings are discussed in the manu

Extensive research has developed and tested frameworks

Yi, andofFutrell 1998). Those same sales managers have b
salesperson performance and effectiveness (e.g., Sager,
to influence a variety of outcomes, including sales f
and Futrell 1998; Walker, Churchill, and Ford 1977;trust,
Weitz,morale, organizational commitment, ethical conduc
Sujan, and Sujan 1986). Obliquely related to this salesperson-
job stress, job performance, and the entire customer interf
(e.g., Brashear et al. 2003; DelVecchio 1998; Guest and M
related research is the research focused on sales management
with an emphasis on job satisfaction (e.g., Kantak, Futrell,
1989; Johlke et al. 2000; Lagace 1991; Mehta et al. 199
and Sager 1992; Swift and Campbell 1998) and the Rich sales
1998; Sager, Yi, and Futrell 1998). With such a hig
manager-salesperson relationship (e.g., Brashear et al. 2003;
visible and influential role in the organization, researchers
Castleberry and Tanner 1986; DelVecchio 1998; Dubinsky
managers acknowledge the importance of understanding s
1999; Lysonski and Johnson 1983). Noticeably absent in the selection and performance (Brewer 1997; Dubinsk
1999; Dubinsky and Ingram 1983; Guest and Meric 19
extant literature is a systematic understanding of the character-
Mehta et al. 1999; Sager, Yi, and Futrell 1998).
istics of effective sales managers. One result of this imbalance
in research priorities is that, although much is known regarding
Despite the overall importance of sales managers to gener
the characteristics of salesperson effectiveness, far less ising
positive sales force outcomes, our understanding of sa
about a sales manager s traits and performance characteristics
manager selection and performance is in its infancy and gr
(Mehta et al. 1999; Swift and Campbell 1998). ing slowly. A literature search seeking studies that investig
Researching the attributes present in effective sales man-
the traits or characteristics related to sales manager effect
agers is needed because sales managers have been shown to
ness revealed five studies spanning the 34-year period betw
have great influence on sales representatives and the process
1972 and 2006. Given this paucity of research investigatin
by which salespeople initiate, develop, and expand customer
the characteristics of effective sales managers and given t
relationships (e.g., Castleberry and Tanner 1986; Dubinsky
influence of sales managers on salespeople and the organiz
1999; Evans et al. 2002; Lysonski and Johnson 1983;tion
as a whole, developing a greater understanding of sal
manager effectiveness is critical. The purpose of this researc
to strengthen our understanding of sales manager effective
by examining the attributes, values, and consequences of
Dawn R. Deeter-Schmelz (Ph.D., University of South Florida),
O'Bleness Professor of Marketing, College of Business, Ohio Uni-sales managers from multiple perspectives. Specifica
versity, we report an exploratory study to develop a foundation f
Daniel J. Goebel (Ph.D., University of South Florida), Associate
Professor of Marketing, College of Business, Illinois State University, The authors are listed in alphabetical order reflecting equal contri
Karen Norman Kennedy (Ph.D., University of South Florida),
tion. The authors acknowledge the helpful comments of Tho
DeCarloofin revising the manuscript, and thank the editor and
Associate Professor of Marketing, School of Business, University
Alabama at Birmingham, three anonymous JPSSM reviewers for their guidance^

Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, vol. XXVIII, no. 1 (winter 2008), pp
2008 PSE National Educational Foundation. All rights reserved
ISSN 0885-3134 / 2008 $9.50 + 0.00.
DOI 10.2753/PSS0885-3134280101

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8 Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management

examining the following questions: What do sales managers Finally, Brewers (1997) results were based on a cross section
and salespeople consider the most important attributes of of "high-performing sales managers." One key commonality
effective sales managers? What are the similarities or differ- among all of these studies is that none include or compare
ences among the attributes provided by both groups? How the perspectives of both sales managers and salespeople in
are the characteristics of effective sales managers related to the same study, which is a weakness of extant literature given
consequences for the sales force and ultimately to the benefits previous calls for further research examining differences in
or values these attributes offer the sales function? sales manager-salesperson perceptions (Dubinsky 1998; Evans
et al. 2002).
SALES MANAGER LITERATURE REVIEW The previous review reveals that little research exists to help
practitioners or researchers understand the characteristics of
A review of extant literature revealed only five studieseffective
related sales managers who are integral to the performance
of traits
to the identification of a broad range of sales manager a sales force. Because sales managers and sales representa-
(Brewer 1997; Dubinsky and Ingram 1983; Guest and Meric
tives do not always view their sales world in the same fashion
1989; Spencer 1972) and an initial means-end analysis (Dubinsky
of sales 1998; Evans et al. 2002), examining these different
manager attributes (Deeter-Schmelz, Kennedy, andperspectives
Goebel could provide valuable insight for sales manager
2002). The first three studies investigated sales manager selec- career development, and job performance.
tion by providing lists of characteristics or traits for respon-
dents to indicate each items level of importance or relevanceRESEARCH METHOD: VALUE LADDERING
to sales manager selection. In these studies, researchers did not
define the traits respondents were asked to rate, nor To
thedepth to our understanding of the attributes of e
researchers explore further the meaning of these characteristics
tive sales managers and to explore why those characterist
to respondents. The lack of a definition and follow-upimportant,
led to we selected the value-laddering technique as
appropriate for our research purposes (Reynolds and Gu
the traits being subject to unclear interpretation, as evidenced
by the Guest and Meric (1989) discussion concerning the
1988). Value laddering is a method for providing an in-
"dominance" trait. Specifically, when respondents understanding
did not of the focal phenomena, in the case o
identify dominance as a trait desirable in sales managers as - sales manager effectiveness. The method reli
expected, the authors suggested that perhaps respondents
means-end theory to investigate association networks a
individual concepts as expressed by respondents (Re
held multiple perceptions of dominance, including "unpleas-
ant," "overbearing," or "unduly aggressive" (Guest andand Gutman 1988). Depending on where the concep
1989, p. 50). It is important to note that the focus of the firstmeans-end chain, they are given the label o attr
in each
three studies was the perceived importance of characteristics
(characteristics of a person or situation), consequences (r
for sales manager selection. We still know very little about
why the
the attribute is important to the individual), or va
attributes of effective sales managers, which is the focus of our
(end states that drive individuals with respect to real o
research. self-perception). Laddering combines both quantitati
The fourth study suggests that the traits of high-performing qualitative aspects of investigation by using in-depth que
salespeople are similar to those of high-performing sales man- ing to uncover specific ladder elements, content analys
agers (Brewer 1997), contrary to other evidence suggesting code elements as belonging to specific categories, a grou
that sales performance does not necessarily translate into sales mechanism to combine categories across multiple respond
management effectiveness (Ziyal 1995). The final study pro- and a method for linking categories into a graphical repr
vides an initial investigation into the attributes of effective sales tation of the data (Reynolds and Gutman 1988).
managers (Deeter-Schmelz, Kennedy, and Goebel 2002). The When using the value-laddering technique, researcher
results identify the three major roles effective sales managers on a specific questioning methodology to uncover root
fulfill - that of communicator, motivator, and coach - with and values important to respondents and to probe be
less emphasis given to the attributes themselves. superficial discussion of attributes. As a result, value lad
One should note that all five studies used various groups of allows researchers to develop means-end chains, or la
professionals as respondents, not all with direct sales or sales that delve far beyond a simplistic listing of characteristic
management responsibilities. Spencer (1972) used a cross ladders allow researchers to investigate linkages among t
section of four levels of "corporate personnel," whereas Guest tributes of the research topic, the consequences resulting
and Meric (1989) relied on "human resource managers." A an individual possessing those attributes, and ultimately
group of "sales executives" provided the data for Dubinsky root values driving the presence of those attributes (Re
and Ingram s (1983) study and Deeter-Schmelz, Kennedy, and and Gutman 1988). Our data collection and analysis p
Goebel (2002) studied a mixed group of "sales professionals." dures follow the guidelines of previous researchers (Gen

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Winter 2008 9

and Reynolds 1993, 1995; Reynolds and Gutman 1988) and Respondent: I'm not as successful when I go ou
include (1) the probing of "why ' each attribute is important in my sales calls, because I'm not concent
on what is expected of me.
in-depth one-on-one interviews, (2) the linking of attributes
Interviewer: Why is it important that you have
to higher level consequences and values, (3) the "chunking" sales calls?
of data by multiple independent coders, (4) the aggregating
Respondent: Because that leads to success for the company
of individual ladders across respondents, and (5) the drawing and that's what we're here for.
of hierarchical value maps (HVMs).
As one can see, careful probes by the interviewer prompt
Data Collection the respondents to discuss why each attribute is important for
the effective sales manager to possess. The follow-up "why"
questions are routinely used in value-laddering interviews
Data were collected from a total of 58 sales professionals (33
and are designed to prompt the respondent to identify the
sales managers and 25 sales representatives) through a focused
consequences of possessing the attribute and the desired
in-depth interview process, which is the primary method ofend-state values associated with those attributes. From this
data collection used in value-laddering research. In-depth
probing, a much deeper understanding of the phenomena of
interviews are valuable in this setting because they allow
interest emerges.
informants to speak freely about their experiences, feelings,
The respondents included in our sample represented a wide
and attitudes and because the interview allows flexibility for
range of industries including office equipment and supplies,
the researcher to probe for elaboration from the respondents
pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and supplies, original
(Fontana and Frey 1994). A general rule in exploratory value-
equipment manufacturer parts, insurance/investments,
laddering research such as ours is to include a minimum of 20
television/advertising, food services, heavy equipment, and
respondents in order to obtain meaningful results (Reynolds,
telecommunications/computer equipment. Seventy-three
Dethloff, and Westberg 2001; Van Rekom, Van Riel, and
percent of the respondents were male with 8 1 percent pos-
Wierenga 2006). The number of sales managers (33) and
sessing a bachelor's or master's degree. The greatest number of
sales representatives (25) interviewed for this study clearly
interviewees were between the ages of 30 and 39 (35 percent)
surpasses the recommended minimum number of respondents
with 28 percent between the ages of 20 and 29, 21 percent
for value-laddering studies.
between 40 and 49, and 14 percent over the age of 50.
Our value-laddering interviews lasted from 30 to 75 min-
utes and were audiotaped for later verbatim transcriptions.
Trained interviewers followed a common structure of first Data Analysis
asking respondents to identify five to eight characteristics or
attributes of effective sales managers. Once those attributesAs prescribed by the value-laddering methodology, the tran-
were identified, interviewers asked respondents to rank each scribed interviews were content analyzed with attributes,
attribute in order of importance. The interviewer then beganconsequences, and values coded to aid in data reduction, a
the interview process by selecting the attribute ranked first
necessary step for managing and analyzing interview data
and asking about it. A value-laddering questioning sequence
(Gengler and Reynolds 1995). Two independent judges as-
from our data is as follows:
signed codes and a third judge, also independent, reviewed
all coding and broke ties as needed. We developed our initial
Interviewer: You listed communication skills as one of the
coding sheet from the findings of previous research on sales
most important attributes for a sales manager.
Why is that important?
managers but the judges added codes as new ideas emerged
from the data. LADDERMAP, a computer-assisted content
Respondent: Because if a manager can communicate well, it
makes me feel like I have the support I need to analysis software, was used to help reduce coding inconsisten-
go about doing my job. cies (Gengler and Reynolds 1993).
Interviewer: And why is having this support from the man- We next aggregated data of individual ladders across re-
ager important? spondents to develop an implications matrix. This matrix
Respondent: Well, in my mind, it helps set clear expectations displays the number of times each code is linked to another
for what the manager wants from me. code, reveals both direct and indirect relationships, and aids
Interviewer: And helping to set clear expectations is impor- in developing linkages or ladders across respondents (Reyn-
tant because . . . olds and Gutman 1988). The implications matrix forms
Respondent: It provides focus for the types of things I need the basis for drawing an HVM, a visual tool that illustrates
to concentrate on.
the relationships among constructs (Gengler, Klenosky, and
Interviewer: What happens if you dont have this focus?
Mulvey 1995). The HVM illustrates linkages of attributes,

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1 0 Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management

Figure 1
Sales Manager Effectiveness Hierarchical Value Map: Sales Manager Perspective

consequences, and values through lines of varying thickness, many similarities and several critical differences that helps
with the thickness of the lines indicating the strength of the to accomplish the research purpose. A discussion of thes
relationship - the thicker the line the stronger is the relation- results follows.
ship between two variables. The HVM also reports variables
in circles of varying sizes. The diameter of each circle reflects Differences in Attributes
the relative frequency that respondents mentioned the vari-
able; larger circles represent attributes, consequences, or values The two groups of respondents in our sample generally had
mentioned more frequently. high agreement on the attributes an effective sales manager
needs to possess. Nine out of 1 1 most frequently mentioned
DISCUSSION OF RESEARCH attributes were consistent. Some noticeable differences are

RESULTS worthy of discussion. These include differences in attributes

well as differences in interpretation. The primary differences
attributes relate to selling skills and adaptability. The primary
Recall that the purpose of our study is to identify the attributes
of effective sales managers as perceived by sales managersdifferences
and in interpretation relate to organization and time
sales representatives, and to explore differences in thosemanagement
per- skills, knowledge possession, and communic
ceptions. The results of our analysis undertaken to investigate
tion and listening skills.
these issues are presented in two HVMs, shown as Figures 1
and 2. The figures present a graphical representation of Selling
the Skills
results through the linkages displayed among the variables. Ta-
bles 1, 2, and 3 contain descriptions, characteristic comments,
The manager respondents in our sample indicated that their
and respondent rankings for the attributes, consequences,own
and selling skills contribute to others' perceptions of their
values, respectively. Reviewing the HVMs shown in Figure
1 - that is, manager reputation (Figure 1 and Table
(sales managers) and Figure 2 (sales representatives) reveals
1). One sales manager noted:

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Winter 2008 11

Figure 2
Sales Manager Effectiveness Hierarchical Value Map: Sales Representative Perspective

If ... a sales manager doesn't know the business or certainly tions. Alternatively, sales representatives may have assumed
doesn't have salesmanship skills, they're going to fail in ev- the manager would have selling skills and therefore did not
erything else. They won't have the credibility; they won't be
deem those skills worthy of explicit mention. It is also pos-
sible that salespeople interpreted sales managers' selling skills
as a component of another attribute, such as knowledge pos-
This result suggests that the managers in our study be-
session. Regardless of the possible motive for representatives
lieve their own selling skills play an important role in others'
to not mention selling skills as an essential attribute of sales
perceptions of managers' reputations. Sales managers have
managers, it is worth noting that sales representatives did not
indicated in previous research that it is important for them
discuss manager reputation as a consequence arising from the
to have good selling skills (Mehta et al. 1999). Other research
attributes of effective sales managers.
in the management literature has identified the importance
of credibility and manager reputation (Mackenzie 1969).
However, our finding that sales managers need to have a well- Adaptability
documented reputation based partly on their possession of
Whereas sales managers identified selling skills as a somewhat
selling skills appears to be idiosyncratic to the sales managers
in this study. As Table 1 indicates, no sales representative in
important attribute, sales representatives mentioned the
managers' adaptability as an attribute somewhat important to
our interviews directly discussed selling skills as an attribute
sales manager effectiveness. The following sales representative
of an effective sales manager.
quotation illustrates the value of manager adaptability:
This result may reflect the way sales representatives see their
managers influencing the sales process. Because representatives
And maybe it's just not a good day. And maybe you need to tell
rely on managers for support functions such as feedback and him to hold back and try to ride with, work with somebody
development, they may not see the manager s selling skills as else. And a good manager, of course, is going to be flexible
necessary to the successful fulfillment of those support func- and know that, "Okay, today is not going to be a good day

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1 2 Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management

Table I

Ranking by Ranking by
Variable Definition and Example Verbatim Managers* Representatives*

Communication The sales manager has the skills to communicate and listen I I
and Listening Skills effectively (e.g., "a sales manager today has to be an effective
listener as well as communicator")
Human Relations Skills The sales manager works with people effectively and develops 2 I
personal rapport with sales force members (e.g., "the most
important job of a manager is to be able to relate well with
that sales team")
Organization and The sales manager has the ability to organize and manage his 3 5
Time Management Skills or her own time and work activities (e.g., "understanding
organization, understanding delegation, time management")

Knowledge Possession The sales manager is knowledgeable about the industry, the 3 I
product, and business in general (e.g., "if you don't have a good
understanding of how the industry works, then you really
don't know how to answer the question")
Coaching Skills The sales manager mentors representatives, helping them 5 7
improve their selling skills (e.g., "you need to constantly make
sure those individuals are improving their skills")

Motivational Skills The sales manager recognizes motivating factors and rewards 6 4
good performance (e.g., "important for the sales force to be
rewarded or recognized and noticed for the work they're doing")
Honest and Ethical The sales manager is perceived as truthful, straightforward, and 6 8
Tendencies ethical (e.g., "as a manager you have to be honest with the people
that work for you")

Selling Skills The sales manager has sales experience (e.g.,"he's been there, 8 n.l.
done that, he knows what it's like to be in the trenches")

Leadership Skills The sales manager encourages and inspires reps (e.g.,"sales 8 5
associates need to be able to look to a sales manager as a leader")

Willingness to Empower The sales manager allows reps to take responsibility and action
(e.g., "empower the employees to accomplish their goals
however they choose")
Adaptability The sales manager is adaptable (e.g., "if he's not flexible, then n.l. 9
things will get mucked up")

Notes: * Attributes with the same ranking reflect a tie in the number of times it was listed as important by respondents, n.l. = not listed as an

tions skills. Another explanation may be that adaptability is

and I'm not going to push it and not going to interfere with
his productivity." seen clearly by managers as an attribute critical for effectiv
selling, but not for effective management of salespeople. In
From this quotation and others, it appears that the fact,
sales although the management literature often calls for the
development of managers who can adapt to change (e.g., Farley
representatives in our study are more focused on adaptability
2005), we could find no evidence that adaptability had bee
as a means to enhance the salesperson s productivity. In other
words, the representatives prefer that the sales manageridentified
be as an attribute important to effectively managing
adaptable when it comes to providing guidance and supporting with employees. Just as the literature supports
that adapting selling behavior to the needs of different buyer
the completion of the sales representatives' job responsibilities.
is an
Sales managers, in contrast, did not identify adaptability as important to achieving superior sales performance (e.g
Spiro and Weitz 1990), the salespeople in our sample seem to
attribute related to effective sales management. One possible
suggest that adaptive management also is important to sales
explanation may be that sales managers considered adaptability
manager effectiveness.
to be a component of another attribute, such as human rela-

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Winter 2008 13

Table 2

Ranking by Ranking by
Variable Definition and Example Verbatim Managers* Representatives*

Positive Morale The sales reps perceive the workplace as a positive environment I 2
and exhibit high morale (e.g., "really working to have a better
Open Communication The reps can communicate openly with the sales manager and 2 I
find him or her supportive (e.g., "they feel they are heard and
Role Model The sales manager is seen as a model for sales reps (e.g., "you 3 n.l.
really have to set the example")
Confidence and Trust The sales manager instills confidence in and develops trust 3 3
with sales force members (e.g., "they need to know they can
trust you")

Clear Expectations The sales reps have a clear understanding of their roles and 5 7
what is expected of them (e.g., "people have a clear
understanding of what is expected")
Manager Reputation How the sales manager is perceived by others (e.g., "first 5 n.l.
downfall of a sales manager is the perception")

Rep Development The selling skills and abilities of sales reps are developed and 7 3
improved (e.g., "help them develop their skills")
Greater Effort The sales reps are willing to work harder (e.g.,"theyVe ready 7 6
to run to the wall for you")
Effective Feedback The sales manager provides feedback in an effectual manner n.l. 5
(e.g., "you're going to get your point across")

Recognition of The sales manager recognizes and deals effectively with the n.l. 7
Individuality varying traits of individual sales representatives (e.g., "ability
to deal with different types of personalities")

Notes: * Consequences with the same ranking reflect a tie in the number of times it was listed as important by respondents, n.l. = not

Organization and Time Management Skills On the other hand, salespeople saw organization and tim
management skills of the sales manager as important beca
Although relatively close agreement was achieved regarding
they contribute directly to the representatives' job perform
the remaining attributes considered important to effective
by removing internal or external obstacles that may prev
sales management, there appears to be less agreement as to performance (Figure 2). One sales representat
why these attributes are important. Both sales managers
whenandasked what would happen if a sales manager did
sales representatives identified organization and time manage-
have good organizational skills, responded:
ment skills as important, a finding corroborated by previous
research (Spencer 1972). Sales managers saw organization Iand
think I might be frustrated. I have worked for managers be-
fore where it was like that. Where they didn't remember what
time management skills as allowing the time needed to openly
you talked about, they'd say they'd do something, and they'd
communicate and relay expectations to their representatives
never follow up. I'd be like, 'shoot, I have to go through this
(Figure 1). One sales manager in the real estate industry ex-
again,' you know. Or maybe you went through all this trouble,
presses this idea: you put something together and you gave it to him and h
lost it. You know, and you have to go back and, hopefully, you
And that [organization] . . . comes into play certainly with be-
would have kept a copy ... in some cases some people don't
ing efficient in his own planning . . . if he s efficient in trying
they give him the original and the next thing you know they
to organize the staff, to encourage them to get out and make
have to do it all over again.
themselves known to the community or whatever, everybody s
going to benefit ... he could certainly establish policies and cer-
It appears that the sales representatives in our study cons
tainly make suggestions that would encourage the staff people
to be more efficient and use their time more efficiently. the importance of organization and time management ski

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1 4 Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management

Table 3

Ranking by Ranking by
Variable Definition and Example Verbatim Managers* Representatives*

Rep job Performance The sales representative is productive and contributes to I I

company success (e.g., "More productive and aggressive
sales force")
Manager job The sales manager fulfills the requirements of the position 2 6
Performance (e.g., "sales manager can be successful")
Customer Relationship Relationships with customers are developed and maintained 3 4
Development and (e.g., "form a relationship with your client")

Company Performance The company attains success (e.g., "help the company be 4 2
more profitable")
Goal Achievement Set goals are attained (e.g., "meeting all the company's objectives") 4 3
Respect The sales manager earns the respect of the sales force (e.g., "to 6 5
earn the respect of the people that you're leading and/or
Sales Force Retention Sales force turnover is reduced (e.g., "then you'll lose the 7 n.l.

Notes: * Values with the same ranking reflect a tie in the number of times it was listed as important by respondents, n.l. = not listed as a value.

in terms of sales support. A manager who possesses good (Dubinsky 1999). This idea is exemplified by this quotation
organization and time management skills is in a position to from an office products sales representative:
make it easier for the representative to sell and execute other
tasks in an efficient manner. Alternatively, our sales managers You expect your sales manager to have been around for a while.
Knows the business, knows how to handle people, knows how
see themselves playing a more active role in the sales process,
to handle certain situations, knows about the company that
modeling and encouraging appropriate behavior. From the you're working for. He knows about the product line that
managers perspective, organization and time management you're selling. So there's a responsibility there for the manager
skills allow the manager more time to interact with representa- to know a lot of information so that you can use them as a
tives and influence the sales process more directly. resource. . . . That helps me because I feel comfortable going
to him.

Knowledge Possession: Links to Consequences This example illustrates the link between knowledge and open
communication, which occurs when representatives feel that
Our findings also demonstrated differences in the interpreta-
they can communicate openly with their managers and receive
tion of knowledge possession. Both the sales manager and sales
support from those managers when needed (Table 1).
representative respondents defined knowledge possession in
On the other hand, as shown in Figure 1, the sales man-
terms of industry knowledge, product knowledge, and general
agers linked knowledge possession to confidence and trust
business knowledge. The differences in these two groups of
and manager reputation. If the sales manager possesses and
respondents lie in the relationships between knowledge pos-
shares detailed knowledge with a sales representative, then that
session and subsequent consequences. As illustrated by the
could increase the confidence the salesperson has in his or her
thickness of the line in the HVMs in Figures 1 and 2, the
manager, as well as his or her trust in that manager. Given
sales representatives in this study see sales manager knowledge
that the manager is seen as a credible source of knowledge,
as contributing directly to open communication, whereas
manager reputation could also be enhanced. These linkages
the sales managers see their possession of knowledge leading
are noted by one sales manager in a discussion about product
to two consequences - confidence and trust and manager
reputation. With respect to sales representatives, the finding
that knowledge possession leads to open communication You need to learn about the products that you're selling before
may reflect salespeople s reliance on sales managers as a sup- you can actually go out there. You can manage, you can be
portive resource, including an important source of knowledge in the office and be the out-of-desk-type management where

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Winter 2008 15

something comes across your desk, you sign it ... you have Summary
no concept of what the products are all about. If you're out
there and you know what your products are, it makes it a lot An overview of the differences with respect to the important
easier to sell. And you get back to credibility not only with attributes of effective sales managers and the linkages of those
your salespeople but also with your customers if you know
attributes to various consequences highlights a recurring
your product.
theme - sales representatives see the manager in a support
role of the selling process and sales managers see themselves
The themes of indirect supporter versus active participant
in a more active, direct role.
seem to be driving the different perceptions. The sales rep-
resentatives in our study see a knowledgeable manager as a
resource in more of a supportive role, whereas the sales man-Differences in Consequences
agers see their knowledge as contributing to the confidence
As with the attributes, differences in consequences between
of the representative and the manager s reputation, thereby
sales managers and representatives include differences in the
influencing the selling process more directly.
consequences and differences in the interpretation of those
consequences. The differences in consequences include role
Communication and Listening Skills: Links to
model, effective feedback, manager reputation, clear expecta-
tions, and recognition of individuality. The primary differences

Both managers and representatives view communication and in interpretation relate to positive morale and greater effort.

listening skills on the part of the manager as an important

precursor to the consequence of open communication. The Role Model
managers in our sample believe that communication and
listening skills lead to the establishment of clear expectations The sales managers in our study see role modeling, defined
with his or her representatives. The representatives, however, as their ability to set an example for representatives, as play-

view the communication and listening skills as antecedent to ing a key role in the effort put forth by salespeople. This
recognition of the representatives' individuality. This excerpt greater effort is subsequently seen as affecting representative

from one sales manager in the office supply industry illustrates job performance. Although little attention has been paid to
how her communication helps solidify expectations with her role modeling by sales researchers (Rich 1998), this finding
certainly seems intuitive and is supported by practitioner-
oriented sales literature (e.g., Richardson 1996). This idea is
I think it [communication and listening skills] makes their exemplified by the following quotation from a sales manager
job easier. They dont have to second guess or, "Gosh, what in the industrial equipment industry:
did she mean by that?" Maybe not accomplish certain tasks
by certain deadlines because they didn't understand what Salesmen have to have somebody they can look to. ... Some-
needed to be done. So I think a clear explanation of what body who they can be proud of, that understands the product
your expectation is, is important. reasonably well. That they can look to and say, "Yeah, if I'm
going to be like anybody in the company and for success, and
Contrasted with the previous quote, in the following pas- move forward, yeah, that's the person."
sage a sales representative discusses how her manager's com-
munication and listening skills recognize the representatives' This verbatim suggests that when the sales manager is a role
individuality: model, the salesperson will work to be more like the manager.
Interestingly, role model was not a consequence identified by
In my experience, personally, the sales reps I've worked the sales representatives in our study. This result may reflect
with [her peers], they can have interesting personalities and
sales representatives' perceptions that the sales manager plays
the manager has to know how to communicate with those
personalities without ruffling feathers and yet still get their
a different role than that played by the representative. To the
point across. extent that a sales representative sees the sales manager as a
supportive resource, he or she may not recognize that manager
Once again, through the communication of clear expecta- as a role model for the sales representative function.
tions, the managers in our sample see themselves as playing
an active part in the sales representative's tasks. In contrast, Effective Feedback
the sales representatives view the managers' communication
and listening skills as recognition that the representatives are The sales representatives in our sample were more inclined to
individuals and, as such, they expect personalized communica- see effective feedback as critical to the development of their
tion from their managers. selling skills. The thoughts of one sales representative discuss-

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1 6 Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management

ing a sales manager in the following quotation illustrates this Clear Expectations and Recognition of Individuality
Although sales managers see manager reputation as a direct
For example, when we do evaluations, he'll sit down and we'll link to representative job performance, sales representatives
discuss what we need to do. And he'll tell you why. He'll make see clear expectations and the recognition of individuality as
you think about things you don't normally think about. . . . being linked to representative job performance. One sales
My previous manager would tell everybody else behind my representative stated the importance of clear expectations:
back except me. So I'd rather he tell me because I can improve
myself if I know what I'm doing wrong.
A lot of times a salesperson in the field is doing battle, if you
will, on their own. And if certain things are required from
This sales representative believes direct feedback received is that salesperson from the company that they work for, it's just
important to his personal development. Other sales repre- important for the sales manager to be honest about "Hey, this
is why it's important." All types of things are important about
sentatives reported that this feedback allows them to develop
the communication the manager has with the salesperson.
their skills (representative development) and subsequently
Inclusive of what expectations and goals are and how they're
perform at higher levels. This finding is different than the stacking up against those expectations and goals.
previously discussed manager results, which suggest the sales
managers believe being a positive role model leads to enhanced This quotation suggests that salespeople look to their sales
representative job performance. Given that the provision of managers for clear standards of performance - that is, clear
feedback to sales representatives is a core sales management expectations. Another salesperson highlighted the importance
function, it seems curious that sales managers did not iden- of recognizing individuality:
tify this consequence. A possible explanation for this result is
that sales managers saw feedback as a component of another And I think that it's just important to understand the indi-
consequence, such as open communication. An alternative vidual so that way the sales manager can sort of ... personalize
explanation is that sales managers saw role modeling as a it to each individual salesperson and their personality and
what motivates them so that way he or she can maximize
means to provide the information needed to promote sales
that person's ability.
person job performance.

As evidenced by this passage, the sales representative respon-

Manager Reputation dents in our sample suggest that in addition to possessing
certain skills, such as motivational skills, human relations skills,
The identification of manager reputation as an important communication and listening skills, and adaptability (Figure
consequence is interesting because we could find no prior 2), the sales manager should be capable of applying those
research in the sales literature discussing this construct. As skills in a way that recognizes the salespersons individuality.
indicated by the thickness of the line joining manager reputa- Taken together, these results suggest that sales representatives
tion and representative job performance on the sales manager believe the ability of the manager to support the representative,
map (Figure 1), the managers in our sample reported relatively through the clarification of expectations and the recognition
strong links with this consequence: that each salesperson has different needs, is important to each
sales representative's job performance.
They're constantly looking at you and everything you do, both Our sales managers did not identify individuality as a key
socially, in meetings. Your credibility, in all environments, your
consequence and although clear expectations was identified as
credibility can be perfect and you can destroy it in making
the wrong comment in the wrong environment . . . and from a consequence by sales managers, it was seen as influencing rep-
then on you don't get invited into the sales process and then resentative job performance indirectly through positive morale
you're always behind the curve. and greater effort. This result suggests the sales managers in
our sample do not recognize treating salespeople as individu-
Clearly, this sales manager is concerned with her credibility als as an important consequence that might ultimately affect
and how the perceptions of the sales representatives within job performance. Perhaps sales managers identified the ability
her span of control can be affected by her choices in conversa- to treat salespeople as individuals with another consequence
tion and behavior. Perhaps even more interesting is the link or attribute such as human relations skills. The alternative
identified by sales managers between manager reputation and explanation with respect to clear expectations suggests man-
sales representative job performance, which is a finding that agers see a more complex process between clear expectations
reiterates the view that the sales manager affects the selling and representative job performance. This result may stem
process directly. from the fact that sales managers are working with a group of

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Winter 2008 M

salespeople rather than a single salesperson. This finding may

tion as important values, although the frequency with which
also illustrate the difficulty that sales managers face in balanc-
these values were mentioned varied. The primary differences
ing the expectations of the firm with salesperson outcomes.between managers and representatives relate to manager job
With these complexities in mind, the manager could be in a performance and sales force retention.
better position to understand how clear expectations could
affect sales force morale as a whole.
Manager Job Performance

Positive Morale and Greater Effort One interesting difference between the managers and rep-
resentatives in our sample is the identification of manager
Another interesting difference between the perceptions performance
of as an important value. Sales representatives, by
the sales managers and sales representatives in our study virtue
is of the low number of times manager performance is
how each group views the relationship between the conse- mentioned (only seven times) and its position in the map,
quences of positive morale and greater eifort with the valueview manager performance as somewhat of an afterthought
of representative job performance (Figure 1). The managers resulting from the representative achieving his or her goals.
view themselves as having a much more direct influence on Conversely, managers view fulfilling their job requirements
a representative s job performance through the establishment
as a much more important and central value to the process.
Managers seem to believe that their performance allows them
of positive morale, which leads to greater effort by the sales
to receive respect from the sales force, which, in turn, results
representative and enhanced representative job performance.
in goal achievement for the manager. This is represented in
The sales representatives view their own greater effort as only
the following comment from a sales manager in the office
obliquely related to their own job performance. Based on these
equipment industry:
findings, it appears that the managers believe that better job
performance on the part of the representative is the result of
the representatives working harder (through greater effort), I am held accountable for a specific budget every year. I hold
my salespeople accountable for making their budget. If they
which the managers influence through positive morale, and as
dont make their budget, I won't make mine. . . . And so if
helping their representatives work smarter (through represen- my salespeople see that I'm trying my hardest and making
tative development). In contrast, representatives believe that every effort to make sure that I deliver mine, they will in
their own performance is the result of their working smarter turn deliver theirs.
through (1) the development of representative selling skills,
(2) the establishment of clear expectations, and (3) the ability It appears that the managers in this study view their own
of the manager to deal with representatives on an individualcontributions in a more important fashion, whereas the sales
basis. representatives do not give the manager as much credit for
the central role that he or she plays in accomplishing the goals
of the sales force. Perhaps sales managers recognize that their
performance affects those both above and below them, whereas
As with the differences in attributes, the differences in percep- sales representatives view the sales manager s performance in
tions regarding the importance of various consequences reflect an individualistic way.
what appears to be a key theme underlying our research find-
ings. Sales managers see themselves as more directly involved Sales Force Retention
in the sales process, whereas salespeople see the manager as
an indirect support mechanism. Only sales managers identified sales force retention as a criti-
cal value. Understandably, sales managers are more likely to
Differences in Values be concerned with turnover, given the costs for recruiting,
training, and managing a new sales trainee, as well as the
With respect to the values or desired end-states seen as result- potential costs associated with lost sales resulting from the
ing from key attributes and consequences, we observed more turnover (Futrell and Parasuraman 1984). The fact that the
similarities than differences among sales managers and sales sales representatives in our study did not identify sales force
representatives. Both groups consistently highlighted the retention as a key value is not surprising. Although logic
sales representatives job performance as the most important suggests a sales representative might be interested in his or
desired end-state. In addition, both groups discussed manager her intention to remain in a position, he or she would likely
job performance, company performance, goal achievement, view overall sales force retention as unimportant to his or her
respect, and customer relationship development and reten- position and ability to perform.

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1 8 Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management

IMPLICATIONS FOR and Anderson (2001) found that certain aspects of train
RESEARCHERS AND MANAGERS program content, such as company knowledge, company p
cies, and time management, appeared to be more importan
This research sought to investigate the factors related to
to lower-level
sales sales managers than upper-level sales manag
manager effectiveness from both the sales manager and sales-different HVMs might be attained depending on
person perspectives. Our goal was to identify characteristics
level of management measured.
of effective sales managers, link those characteristics toWith
the the exception of early research in the organizatio
resultant consequences, and explore the values underlying the literature (Mackenzie 1969), we could find no
consequences from two points of view - that of the sales rep-
search examining the manager reputation consequence ide
resentative and the sales manager. Use of the value-laddering
fied in our study. Our results suggest this is a concern of
methodology in an exploratory research design allowed for but not sales representatives. Future research mi
the development of two HVMs, one each for sales managers
explore the nature of this construct more fully. Some po
and sales representatives, illustrating the linkages among the
tial research questions include the following: Does man
attributes, consequences, and values demonstrated by effective
reputation play a role in relationships with customers?
sales managers. As highlighted throughout our discussion,
sales representatives identify manager reputation with ano
many similarities exist between the results obtained for both such as respect? Is manager reputation importan
sales managers and sales representatives. Some key top differ-
management? Given the prominence of this construct
ences also are present. Throughout our analysis, a keythe
sales manager HVM, additional research is warranted.
emerged - that of sales managers viewing their role as more
Finally, this research also points to a need for more inv
participative in the selling process while sales representatives
tigation of the sales manager s role in the selling process
view the sales manager s role as more supportive in nature.
the factors related to sales manager job performance. Rec
research suggests women may manage differently from m
Implications for Researchers (Piercy, Cravens, and Lane 2003). Perhaps male and fem
sales managers/sales representatives would view the su
The exploratory nature of this study naturally leads to
of mul-
sales manager effectiveness differently than is presen
tiple ideas for future research. As a cross between qualitative
here. The relationship between manager job performa
and quantitative research, the value-laddering methodology
and representative job performance has received little att
has facilitated the development of two HVMs representing
tion in the literature and represents another possible aven
for research.
the perceptions of sales managers and sales representatives.
In essence, these maps represent models that might be tested
using alternative research methods. Given the comprehensive
Implications for Managers
nature of the maps, we recommend testing components of the
Although our research is exploratory and warrants further
models as a first step. A test of the relationships surrounding
open communication, for example, might represent a good these findings have notable points for sales
starting point. Confirmatory methods may provide more de- to consider. Our results suggest that sales manag-
ers and
finitive evidence of the nature of the relationships among sales representatives view sales manager effectiveness
attributes, consequences, and values we identified. differently. Sales organizations should recognize that when
Future research also should examine the key theme of "sup-effective sales management, it is worth considering
port" versus "direct influence." In addition to confirming orrepresentatives' perspective. If sales force retention is
the sales
refuting our findings, research should explore more fully why
an issue in a particular firm, for instance, the sales organization
sales managers see directly influencing the sales processmight be well served by seeking out the types of attributes
as more
indicative of performing their job effectively and why sales by a sales manager capable of being a supportive
representatives perceive the support role as more important.
resource. The key theme of supportive resource versus direct
It also would be interesting to investigate the views from top
influence underlying our research suggests sales organizations
management. Under what conditions is it preferable to need to make a determination as to the role they want
the sales manager directly involved, and when is it preferable
sales managers to play in their firms. Does a firm want sales
to have the manager serve as a supportive resource? managers who serve as "super closers," taking over for the sales
We did not distinguish between levels of sales managers
representative to bring sales into the organization? In contrast,
when conducting our interviews. Research on salesdoesman-
a firm seek managers who will develop the selling skills
agement training has suggested that differences between
of sales representatives and support representatives' efforts
lower-level and upper-level managers can exist. In a study of the customer relationship development process?
satisfaction with sales manager training, Dubinsky,The
strategy chosen has clear implications for the expectations

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Winter 2008 19

and actions of both sales managers and sales representatives. A ness: The Link Between the Sales Force and a Dynam
clearly identified strategy will facilitate an accurate job descrip- Marketplace," Industrial Marketing Management, 31 (7
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