Skip to main content

Are your salespeople coachable? How salesperson coachability, trait competitiveness, and transformational leadership enhance sales performance

Abstract

In this two-part empirical study, a measure of athletic coachability is adapted and applied to salespeople in a business-to-business sales context. Relationships among salesperson coachability, salesperson trait competitiveness, sales manager leadership style, and sales performance are conceptualized and tested. Results suggest that sales performance is highest when salespeople are highly coachable, highly competitive, and under transformational leadership. Results also suggest that salesperson coachability fully mediates the relationship between transformational leadership and sales performance and partially mediates the relationship between salesperson trait competitiveness and sales performance.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Aiken, L., & West, S. (1992). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Allport, G. W. (1937). Personality: A psychological interpretation. New York: Holt.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Armstrong, S. (2001). Are you a transformational coach? Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 72(3), 23–29.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Armstrong, S. J., & Overton, T. (1977). Estimating nonresponse bias in mail surveys. Journal of Marketing Research, 14, 396–402.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Avolio, B. J., Bass, B. M., & Jung, D. (1999). Re-examining the components of transformational and transactional leadership using the multifactor leadership questionnaire. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 72(4), 441–462.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bagozzi, R. P. (1978). Sales force performance and job satisfaction as a function of individual difference, interpersonal, and situational factors. Journal of Marketing Research, 15(4), 517–531.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bagozzi, R. P. (1980). Performance and satisfaction in an industrial sales force: An examination of their antecedents and simultaneity. Journal of Marketing, 44(2), 65–77.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bagozzi, R. P., & Heatherton, T. F. (1994). A general approach to representing multifaceted personality constructs: Application to self-esteem. Structural Equation Modeling, 1, 35–67.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–1182.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bartkus, K. R., Peterson, M. F., & Bellenger, D. N. (1989). Type A behavior, experience, and salesperson performance. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 9(3), 11–18.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and beyond expectations. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bearden, W., Hardesty, D. M., & Rose, R. L. (2001). Consumer self-confidence: Refinements in conceptualization and measurement. Journal of Consumer Research, 28(1), 121–34.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Bem, D. J. (1983). On predicting some of the people some of the time. Psychological Review, 81, 506–520.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bentler, P. M., & Bonnett, D. G. (1980). Significance tests and goodness of fit in analysis of covariance structures. Psychological Bulletin, 88(3), 588–606.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Bowers, K. S. (1973). Situationism in psychology: An analysis and a critique. Psychological Review, 80, 307–336.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Brewer, G. (1994). Mind reading: What drives top salespeople to greatness. Sales and Marketing Management, 146(5), 82–92.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Brown, R. (1968). From selling to managing: Guidelines for the newly appointed field sales manager. New York: American Management Association.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Brown, S. P., & Peterson, R. A. (1994). The effect of effort on sales performance and job satisfaction. Journal of Marketing, 58(2), 70–80.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Brown, S. P., Cron, W. L., & Slocum, J. W., Jr. (1998). Effects of trait competitiveness and perceived intraorganizational competition on salesperson goal setting and performance. Journal of Marketing, 62(4), 88–98.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Bryman, A. (1992). Charisma and leadership in organizations. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010). Occupational outlook handbook: Employment by major occupational group, 2006–2007 edition. Retrieved November 8, 2006, from http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos297.htm.

  22. Bycio, P., Hackett, R. D., & Allen, J. S. (1995). Further assessments of Bass’s (1985) conceptualization of transactional and transformational leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80, 468–478.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Caldwell, D. F., & O’Reilly, C. A. (1990). Measuring person-job fit with a profile comparison process. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75(6), 648–657.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Carsrud, A. L., & Olm, K. W. (1986). The success of male and female entrepreneurs: A comparative analysis of the effects of multi-dimensional achievement motivation. In R. W. Smiler & R. L. Kuhn (Eds.), Managing take off in fast growth companies (pp. 147–161). New York: Praeger.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Cattell, R. B. (1965). The scientific analysis of personality. Baltimore: Penguin.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Churchill, G. A., Jr., Ford, N. M., Hartley, S. W., & Walker, O. C., Jr. (1985). The determinants of sales performance: a meta-analysis. Journal of Marketing Research, 22(2), 103–118.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Corcoran, K. J., Petersen, L. K., Baitch, D. B., & Barrett, M. (1995). High-performance sales organizations: Achieving competitive advantage in the global marketplace. Chicago: Irwin Professional Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Cudeck, R., & Henly, S. (1991). Model selection in covariance structures analysis and the problem of sample size: a clarification. Psychological Bulletin, 109(3), 512–219.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Dalrymple, D., & Strahle, W. (1990). Career path charting: framework for salesforce evaluation. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 10(3), 59–68.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Dubinsky, A. J., & Hartley, S. (1986). A path-analytic study of a model of salesperson performance. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 14(2), 36–46.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Dubinsky, A. J., Yammarino, F. J., Jolson, M., & Spangler, W. (1995). Transformational leadership: an initial investigation in sales management. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 15(2), 17–29.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Endler, N. S., & Magnusson, D. (1976). Toward an interactional psychology of personality. Psychological Bulletin, 83, 956–974.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Eysenck, H. J. (1952). The effects of psychotherapy: an evaluation. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 16, 319–324.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Flaherty, K. E., Mowen, J. C., Brown, T. J., & Marshall, G. W. (2009). Leadership propensity and sales performance among sales personnel and managers in a specialty retail store setting. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 29(1), 43–59.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Ford, N. M., Churchill, G. A., Jr., & Walker, O. C., Jr. (1985). Sales force performance. Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Fornell, C., & Larcker, D. F. (1981). Evaluating structural equation models with unobservable variables and measurement error. Journal of Marketing Research, 18(1), 39–50.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Franke, G. R., & Park, J. (2006). Salesperson adaptive selling behavior and customer orientation: a meta-analysis. Journal of Marketing Research, 43(4), 693–702.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Fridhandler, B. M. (1986). A conceptual note on state, trait and state-trait distinction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 169–174.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Giacobbi, P. (2000). The athletic coachability scale: Construct conceptualization and psychometric analyses (Doctoral dissertation). Knoxville: University of Tennessee.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Good, D. J. (1993). Managerial coaching as a sales performance moderator. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 1(3), 74–83.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Grant, R. (1981). UTS sales manager’s training manual. Kansas City: Westwood.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Harris, E. G., Mowen, J. C., & Brown, T. J. (2005). Re-examining salesperson goal orientations: personality influencers, customer orientation, and work satisfaction. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 33(1), 19–35.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Helmreich, R., & Spence, J. (1978). The work and family orientation questionnaire: an objective instrument to assess components of achievement, motivation and attitudes toward family and career. JSAS Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 8, 35.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Hensel, P. J., & Bruner, G. C. (1992). Scaling and measurement: multi-item scaled measures in sales related research. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 12(3), 77–82.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Hinkin, T. R. (1995). A review of scale development practices in the study of organizations. Journal of Management, 21(5), 967–988.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Holland, J. L. (1985). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6(1), 1–55.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Humphreys, J. H. (2002). Transformational leader behavior, proximity and successful services marketing. Journal of Services Marketing, 16(6), 487–501.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Hunter, G. K., & Perreault, W. D. (2007). Making sales technology effective. Journal of Marketing, 71(1), 16–34.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Hunter, J. E., & Schmidt, F. L. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: practice and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 262–274.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Jackson, P. R., Martin, W. R., & Davids, K. (1993). New measures of job control, cognitive demand, and production responsibility. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 753–762.

    Google Scholar 

  52. James, L., James, L., & Ashe, D. (1990). The meaning of organizations: The role of cognition and values. In B. Schneider (Ed.), Organizational climate and culture (pp. 41–84). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Johnson, J. (1997). Personality psychology. In R. Hogan, J. Johnson, & S. Briggs (Eds.), Handbook of personality psychology (pp. 81–107). San Diego: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Johnston, M., & Marshall, G. (2005). Relationship selling and sales management. New York: McGraw Hill Irwin.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Johnston, M., & Marshall, G. (2011). Sales force management. New York: McGraw Hill Irwin.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Jones, E., Dixon, A., Chonko, L., & Cannon, J. (2005). Key accounts and team selling: a review, framework, and research agenda. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 25(2), 181–198.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Joreskog, K. G., & Sorbom, D. (1993). LISREL8: Structural equation modeling with the SIMPLIS command language. Hillsdale: SSI.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Joyce, W., Slocum, J. W., & Von Gilnow, M. A. (1982). Person situation interaction: competing models of fit. Journal of Occupational Behavior, 3, 265–280.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Kendrick, D. T., & Funder, D. C. (1988). Lessons learned from the person-situation debate. American Psychologist, 43, 23–34.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Kidwell, B., Hardesty, D., Murtha, B., & Sheng, S. (2011). Emotional intelligence in marketing exchanges. Journal of Marketing, 75(January), 78–95.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Kohli, A. K. (1985). Some unexplored supervisory behaviors and their influence on salespeople’s role clarity, specific self-esteem, job satisfaction, and motivation. Journal of Marketing Research, 22(4), 424–433.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Kohn, A. (1992). No contest: The case against competition. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Krishnan, B., Biswas, A., & Netemeyer, R. (2006). Semantic cues in reference price advertisements: the moderating role of cue concreteness. Journal of Retailing, 82(2), 94–104.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Lam, S. K., Kraus, F., & Ahearne, M. (2010). The diffusion of market orientation throughout the organization: a social learning theory perspective. Journal of Marketing, 74(5), 61–79.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Licata, J. W., Mowen, J., Harris, E. G., & Brown, T. J. (2003). A hierarchical personality approach for identifying the traits of high-performing service personnel. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciences, 31, 256–271.

    Google Scholar 

  66. MacKenzie, S., Podsakoff, P., & Rich, G. (2001). Transformational and transactional leadership and sales performance. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 29(2), 115–134.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Martin, C. (2001). Customer-oriented selling: An empirical examination of organizational and individual antecedents and performance outcomes (Doctoral dissertation). Memphis: University of Memphis.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Martin, C., & Bush, A. J. (2006). Psychological climate, empowerment, leadership style and customer-oriented selling: an analysis of the sales manager-salesperson dyad. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 34(3), 419–439.

    Google Scholar 

  69. McAdams, D. P. (1997). A conceptual history of personality psychology. In R. Hogan, J. Johnson, & S. Briggs (Eds.), Handbook of personality psychology (pp. 4–39). San Diego: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Mosca, J. B., Fazzari, A., & Buzza, J. (2010). Coaching to win: a systematic approach to achieving productivity through coaching. Journal of Business and Economics Research, 8(5), 115–130.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Nicholls, J. G. (1989). The competitive ethos and democratic education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Nunnally, J. C. (1978). Psychometric theory. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  73. Pechmann, C., Zhao, G., Goldberg, M. E., & Reibling, E. (2003). What to convey in antismoking advertisements for adolescents: the use of protection motivation theory to identify effective message themes. Journal of Marketing, 67(2), 1–18.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Plotkin, H. M. (1987). What makes a successful salesperson? Training and Development Journal, 41(9), 54–56.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Plouffe, C. R., Sridharan, S., & Barclay, D. W. (2010). Exploratory navigation and sales performance: investigating selected antecedents and boundary conditions in high-technology and financial services contexts. Industrial Marketing Management, 39(4), 538–550.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J. Y., & Podsakoff, N. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: a critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879–903.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Rich, G. (1998). The constructs of sales coaching: supervisory feedback, role modeling and trust. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 18(1), 53–63.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Rich, G., Bommer, W., MacKenzie, S., Podsakoff, P., & Johnson, J. (1999). Apples and apples or apples and oranges? A meta-analysis of objective and subjective measures of salesperson performance. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 19(4), 41–52.

    Google Scholar 

  79. Robie, C., Brown, D., & Shepherd, W. (2005). Interdependence as a moderator of the relationship between competitiveness and objective sales performance. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 13(4), 274–282.

    Google Scholar 

  80. Robinson, J. P., Shaver, P. R., & Wrightsman, L. S. (1991). Criteria for scale selection and evaluation, In J. P. Robinson, P. R. Shaver, & L. S. Wrightsman (Eds.), Measures of personality and social psychological attitudes (pp. 1–15). San Diego: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Rummell, R. J. (1967). Understanding factor analysis. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 11(4), 444–480.

    Google Scholar 

  82. Russ, F., McNeilly, K., & Comer, J. (1996). Leadership decision making and performance of sales managers: a multi-level approach. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 16(3), 1–15.

    Google Scholar 

  83. Schriesheim, C. A., & Hill, K. (1981). Controlling acquiescence response bias by item reversal: the effect on questionnaire validity. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 41, 1101–1114.

    Google Scholar 

  84. Sharma, A., Rich, G., & Levy, M. (2004). Comment: starting to solve the method puzzle in salesperson self-report evaluations. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 24(2), 135–139.

    Google Scholar 

  85. Shoemaker, M. (1999). Leadership practices in sales managers associated with self efficacy, role clarity, and job satisfaction of individual industrial salespeople. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 19(4), 1–19.

    Google Scholar 

  86. Skinner, B. G. (1972). Beyond freedom and dignity. New York: Knopf.

    Google Scholar 

  87. Snedecor, G. W., & Cochran, W. G. (1989). Statistical methods (8th ed.). Iowa State: University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  88. Snyder, M. (1983). The influence of individuals on situations: implications for understanding the links between personality and social behavior. Journal of Personality, 51, 497–516.

    Google Scholar 

  89. Sobel, M. E. (1982). Asymptotic confidence intervals for indirect effects in structural equation models. In S. Leinhardt (Ed.), Sociological methodology (pp. 290–312). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  90. Spence, J. T., & Helmreich, R. L. (1983). Achievement-related motives and behavior. In J. T. Spence (Ed.), Achievement and achievement motives: Psychological and sociological approaches (pp. 10–74). San Francisco: Freeman.

    Google Scholar 

  91. Strahan, R., & Gerbasi, K. C. (1972). Short homogeneous versions of the Marlowe-Crowne social desirability scale. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 28(2), 191–193.

    Google Scholar 

  92. Teas, R. K., & Horrell, J. F. (1981). Salespeople satisfaction and performance feedback. Industrial Marketing Management, 10, 49–57.

    Google Scholar 

  93. Teas, R. K., Wacker, J. G., & Hughes, R. E. (1979). A path analysis of causes and consequences of salespeople’s perceptions of role clarity. Journal of Marketing Research, 16(3), 355–369.

    Google Scholar 

  94. Vealey, R. S. (1992). Sport personology. In T. S. Horn (Ed.), Advances in sport psychology (pp. 25–59). Champaign: Human Kinetics.

    Google Scholar 

  95. Verbeke, W., Deits, B., & Verwaal, E. (2011). Drivers of sales performance: a contemporary meta-analysis. Have salespeople become knowledge brokers? Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39, 407–428.

    Google Scholar 

  96. Wachtel, P. (1973). Psychodynamics, behavior therapy and the implacable experimenter: an inquiry into the consistency of personality. Journal of Abnormal Personality, 82, 322–334.

    Google Scholar 

  97. Wang, G., & Netemeyer, R. (2002). The effects of job autonomy, customer demandingness, and trait competitiveness on salesperson learning, self-efficacy and performance. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 30, 217–228.

    Google Scholar 

  98. Watson, J. B. (1924). Behaviorism. New York: Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  99. Weeks, W., & Kahle, L. (1990). Salespeople’s time use and performance. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 10(1), 29–37.

    Google Scholar 

  100. Weitz, B. A. (1978). Relationship between salesperson performance and understanding of customer decision making. Journal of Marketing Research, 15(4), 501–516.

    Google Scholar 

  101. Weitz, B. A. (1981). Effectiveness in sales interactions: a contingency framework. Journal of Marketing, 45(1), 85–103.

    Google Scholar 

  102. Wright, R., & Lundstrom, W. J. (2004). Physicians’ perceptions of pharmaceutical sales representatives: a model for analysing the customer relationship. International Journal of Medical Marketing, 4(1), 29–38.

    Google Scholar 

  103. Yammarino, F., & Dubinsky, A. (1990). Sales performance and managerially controllable factors: an investigation of individual and work group effects. Journal of Management, 16(1), 87–107.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alan J. Bush.

Additional information

This article is based on the first author’s original doctoral dissertation and was partially funded by the American Marketing Association Direct Selling Educational Foundation (DSEF) since the author was selected as a winner of the Foundation’s 2007 dissertation proposal competition.

Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Salesperson coachability scale items

The statements that follow are typical ways that salespeople describe some of their work experiences with their managers and fellow sales team members. Please read each statement and decide how strongly you currently agree or disagree with each statement:

  1. 1.

    I frequently read books or magazines about selling.

  2. 2.

    During a sales educational seminar, I am willing to try anything to improve my skills.

  3. 3.

    I frequently let my manager know how I am doing in terms of improving my sales skills.

  4. 4.

    I often get advice from my sales team about my selling skills.

  5. 5.

    I frequently read books about famous sales experts.

  6. 6.

    When my manager criticizes me, I don’t usually get frustrated or mad.

  7. 7.

    I frequently seek out new and different sources of information on selling.

  8. 8.

    The sales representatives I work or train with frequently give me sales advice.

  9. 9.

    Overall, I have a very good working relationship with my manager.

  10. 10.

    After the manager gives me sales advice, I work really hard on what he or she told me to do.

  11. 11.

    I frequently think of ways to improve at selling.

  12. 12.

    When my manager tells me to correct a mistake I’ve made, I do not take it personally or feel angry and upset.

  13. 13.

    It is very important for my manager to think of me as a sales rep who is willing to do what it takes to get better.

  14. 14.

    I learn a lot about selling from the other sales reps.

  15. 15.

    If my manager criticizes or yells at me, I always correct my mistake without getting frustrated or mad.

  16. 16.

    I always listen closely to my manager’s instructions during sales meetings.

  17. 17.

    I trust, without reservation, the training methods of my manager.

  18. 18.

    I feel totally comfortable sharing my opinions with the manager.

  19. 19.

    I view the relationship I have with my manager as a partnership.

  20. 20.

    When my manager criticizes me, I become motivated to work harder.

  21. 21.

    Watching myself perform on videotape during role-playing is very helpful and productive for me.

  22. 22.

    I enjoy talking to my sales team members about how to improve my sales skills.

  23. 23.

    There is always something new to learn in selling.

  24. 24.

    I am always willing to try new drills or techniques to help improve my sales skills.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Shannahan, K.L.J., Bush, A.J. & Shannahan, R.J. Are your salespeople coachable? How salesperson coachability, trait competitiveness, and transformational leadership enhance sales performance. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 41, 40–54 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-012-0302-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Salesperson coachability
  • Sales performance
  • Sales coaching
  • Personal selling