Sales force control system and customer orientation: A review based article

Abstract

The sales force is an important asset for the organization as it helps in earning revenue. In order to make them effective, sales people are subjected to a particular kind of sales force control system. A sales force control system is an organization’s set of procedures for monitoring, directing, evaluating and compensating its employees (Anderson and Oliver, 1987). There are two kinds of sales force control systems: Behaviour based and Outcome based sales force control systems. These systems have been found to have an impact on customer orientation of sales people. Based on the review of previous research studies, this paper attempts to find the direct as well as indirect relationship between the use of a particular
sales force control system and the customer orientation of sales people. The paper takes into consideration research studies from the period 1981
to 2014. Based on the findings of the review, research implications are stated.

Introduction

More and more organizations these days are focusing on customer service and customer satisfaction. Sales people are being trained to pursue the customer relationship objectives of the organization, which will help the organization to maintain a good rapport with its customers and will contribute to its revenue. As a result of increasing competition, sales organizations are trying to distinguish themselves from their
competitors. Since organizations cannot make dramatic changes in their products and services, they are trying to make their sales forces take on the
challenge of customer acquisition and satisfaction. Weitz (1981) gave propositions to improve effectiveness in sales interactions. He proposed that
the use of closed as opposed to open influence techniques is more effective when the sales person is more powerful than his/her customers, the level of conflict between the customers and the sales person is high and the sales person does not anticipate future interactions with the customer. This indicates the importance of customer oriented selling for building long term relationships with the customers. According to Anderson (1996), “No matter how difficult it is to meet the challenge, meeting customer expectations profitably is the only game in town. Companies that fail to star in this game risk their futures.”

If a firm has to be successful, it must understand what customers expect from sales people and make sure that their employees meet or exceed those expectations. According to Goff, Boles, Bellenger and Stojack (1997), billions of dollars spent on product development and promotion can be negated by the poor performance of sales people, while on the other hand, initial satisfaction with the sales person helps a consumer overlook shortcomings in the areas of service or product difficulties, providing these problems are satisfactorily resolved.

In such a scenario, it is important to investigate the effect of the sales force control system on customer orientation of sales people. A sales force control system is an organization’s set of procedures for monitoring, directing, evaluating and compensating its employees (Anderson and Oliver, 1987). It influences behaviour of sales people in such a way that it is beneficial for them as well as the sales organization.

Ever since the study by Anderson and Oliver (1987) has been conducted in which they gave propositions on the effect of sales force control system on cognitions and capabilities, affects and attitudes, motivation, behavioural strategies and performance of sales people, various studies have investigated the effects of sales force control system on customer orientation. The objective of this paper is to extend the existing
knowledge of the role of sales force control system in influencing the customer orientation of sales people and to highlight the direct and indirect impact of behaviour based and outcome based sales force control system on customer orientation of sales people. This paper first defines the two types of sales force control system – behaviour based and outcome based sales force control system. Second, it describes customer orientation of sales people. Third, it provides a framework for organizing the study. Fourth, it reviews important studies highlighting the direct as
well as indirect impact of behaviour based and outcome based sales force control system on the customer orientation of sales people. Lastly, the paper concludes with research implications.

According to Anderson and Oliver (1987), there are two broad categories of sales force control system: Behaviour based and Outcome based sales force control system.

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