Mother of a sales performance

Behavioural control is something mothers are used to, but in sales the skill is more in the engagement.

Mother of a sales performance

I came across some recent research into sales management, and it got me thinking about the recent 4 Corners story about Telstra and its call centres; in particular, about how team leaders were not allowed to “mother” their sales teams.

A loaded term, “mothering”, and without proper definition creates myths and innuendo where none should exist. The following research piece might surprise you and then again it may not.

The research, conducted by Piercy, Lane and Cravens, examines the gender issue across multiple companies from the perspective of sales managers.

What the research found was that, by and large, sales units led by female managers who had higher levels of behaviour control activities displayed higher effectiveness in terms of better job satisfaction and job involvement; lower role ambiguity, job anxiety, and burnout; higher organisational commitment; and with a lower propensity to leave.

Behaviour control activities include monitoring, directing, evaluating and rewarding people. The research says, in part: “Female sales managers perform significantly higher levels of behaviour-based control activities and display higher competence in this management approach, compared to male counterparts.”

Subsequent analyses of the same salesperson study (Piercy, Lane, and Cravens 2002) examined sales manager gender as a predictor of sales team Organisational Citizenship Behaviour (OCB).

The results show that sales teams led by female managers display significantly higher levels of civic virtue, sportsmanship, altruism, courtesy, cheerleading, peacemaking, and overall citizenship. This suggests the management style of female managers (perhaps most particularly, their higher levels of behaviour control activity) encourages and facilitates higher OCB among salespeople working in the sales unit.

While the research showed that both female and male sales managers were able to achieve comparable sales performance, the effect that sales management behaviour control practices (as described above) had on OCB was positively linked to critical factors such as:

  • Superior performance with customers.
  • High sales unit performance.
  • Helping with work-related problems.
  • Effective organisational performance.
  • Higher employee retention.

Interestingly the research did not provide support for the “nurturing and caring” stereotype that suggests female managers will lead by supportive and facilitative behaviours, often referred in derogatory terms as “mothering”. However, female sales managers appear to “go the extra mile” in terms of conscientiousness.

It was reported that female sales managers spend more time monitoring, directing, evaluating and rewarding control activities in their sales teams than their male counterparts.

One of the benefits of a behaviour-based approach to sales management control is that sales managers work more closely with sales people and gain a greater understanding of the weaknesses of their salespeople – important areas that need to be improved – and provide strategies on how to help them improve their performance. If that’s mothering, then I’m all for it.

As the New York Stock Exchange is now looking at “employee engagement” as a significant predictor of higher share value and market return, and given we are all competing, not just for clients and market share but for good employee talent, maybe a key performance indicator for sales management could be in OCB.

Just a thought.

And maybe Telstra wants to reconsider their management strategy.

Author: Sue Barrett is Founder & Managing Director of BARRETT Pty Ltd, an Australian based Sales Fitness Firm that helps businesses Build High Performing Sales Teams and is Author of soon to be released book ‘Sell Like a Woman’.


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