Customer-directed selling behaviors and performance: a comparison of existing perspectives

  • Christopher R. Plouffe
  • John Hulland
  • Trent Wachner
Original Empirical Research


Sales researchers have spent decades developing and empirically testing various scales that reflect distinct theoretical perspectives of salesperson behavior and job functioning. Despite extensive research in this area, little comparative work has been done to assess the relative effectiveness of these different scales in explaining salesperson performance or to explicate whether or not they are best considered in isolation or as working together—even potentially interacting—to influence sales success. We examine four established scales related to customer-directed salesperson job functioning, and look at how well they relate to both self-reported and objective job performance measures. Our analyses are based on responses from 524 salespeople drawn from three different firms. The results show that two scales (ADAPTS, Selling Skills) outperform the others. Furthermore, we find an important interaction between ADAPTS and Selling Skills that helps to predict superior objective performance.


Salespeople Salesperson performance Sales process Measurement scales 


  1. Ahearne, M., Jelinek, R., & Jones, E. (2007). Examining the effect of salesperson service behavior in a competitive context. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 35(4), 603–616. doi: 10.1007/s11747-006-0013-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allison, P. D. (2002). Missing data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  3. Armstrong, J. S., & Overton, T. S. (1977). Estimating nonresponse bias in mail surveys. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 14(3), 396–402. doi: 10.2307/3150783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bagozzi, R. P. (1984). A prospectus for theory construction in marketing. Journal of Marketing, 48(1), 11–29. doi: 10.2307/1251307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Behrman, D. N., & Perreault, W. D., Jr. (1982). Measuring the performance of industrial salespersons. Journal of Business Research, 10(3), 355–370. doi: 10.1016/0148-2963(82) 90039-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boles, J. S., Babin, B. J., Brashear, T. G., & Brooks, C. (2001). An examination of the relationships between retail work environments, salesperson selling orientation-customer orientation and job performance. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 9(3), 1–13.Google Scholar
  7. Bollen, K. A., & Lennox, R. (1991). Conventional wisdom on measurement: a structural equation perspective. Psychological Bulletin, 110(2), 305–314. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.110.2.305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boorom, M. L., Goolsby, J. R., & Ramsey, R. P. (1998). Relational communication traits and their effect on adaptiveness and sales performance. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 26(1), 16–30. doi: 10.1177/0092070398261003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Briggs, M. W. (2008). “You Won, We Lost!” Community Banker.Google Scholar
  10. Brown, G., Widing, R. E., II, & Coulter, R. L. (1991). Customer evaluation of retail salespeople utilizing the soco scale: a replication, extension, and application. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 19(4), 347–351. doi: 10.1007/BF02726510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brown, S. P., Cron, W. L., & Slocum, J. W., Jr. (1998). Effects of trait competitivesness and perceived intraorganizational competition on salesperson goal setting and performance. Journal of Marketing, 62(4), 88–98. doi: 10.2307/1252289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burrus, D. (2008). Maximizing sales in the communication age: Business trends every salesperson should know. Agency Sales, 22–26.Google Scholar
  13. Castleberry, S. B., & David Shepherd, C. (1993). Effective interpersonal listening and personal selling. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 13(1), 35–49.Google Scholar
  14. Chonko, L. B., Caballero, M. J., & Lumpkin, J. R. (1990). Do retail salespeople use selling skills? Journal of Business & Economic Research, 7(1), 36–46.Google Scholar
  15. Churchill, G. A., Jr. (1979). A paradigm for developing better measures of marketing constructs. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 16(1), 64–73. doi: 10.2307/3150876.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Churchill, G. A., Jr., Ford, N. M., Hartley, S. W., & Walker, O. C., Jr. (1985). The determinants of salesperson performance: a meta-analysis. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 22(2), 103–118. doi: 10.2307/3151357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cohen, P., Cohen, J., Teresi, J., Marchi, M., & Valez, C. N. (1990). Problems in the measurement of latent variables in structural equations causal models. Applied Psychological Measurement, 14(2), 183–196. doi: 10.1177/014662169001400207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cohen, J., Cohen, P., Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (2002). Applied multiple regression—correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  19. Couper, M. P. (2000). Web surveys: a review of issues and approaches. Public Opinion Quarterly, 64(4), 464–494. doi: 10.1086/318641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cravens, D. W., Ingram, T. N., LaForge, R. W., & Young, C. E. (1993). Behavior-based and outcome-based salesforce control systems. Journal of Marketing, 57(4), 47–59. doi: 10.2307/1252218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Crom, J. O., Crom, M., Carnegie, D., & Associates Inc. (2003). The sales advantage: How to get it, keep it, & sell more than ever. New York, NY: The Free.Google Scholar
  22. Cron, W. L. (1984). Industrial salesperson development: a career stages perspective. Journal of Marketing, 48(4), 41–52. doi: 10.2307/1251509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. DelVecchio, S. K. (1998). The quality of salesperson-manager relationship: the effect of latitude, loyalty and competence. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 18(1), 31–47.Google Scholar
  24. DeVellis, R. F. (1991). Scale development: Theory and applications. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Diamantopoulos, A., & Siguaw, J. A. (2006). Formative versus reflective indicators in organizational measure development: a comparrison and empirical illustration. British Journal of Management, 17(4), 263–282. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2006.00500.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dillman, D. A. (2000). Mail and internet surveys: The tailored design method (2nd ed.). New York, NY: J. Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  27. Forgas, J. P. (Ed). (2001). Handbook of affect and social cognition. Philadelphia, PA: L. Erlbaum & Associates.Google Scholar
  28. Franke, G. R., & Park, J.-E. (2006). Salesperson adaptive selling behavior and customer orientation: a meta-analysis. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 43(4), 693–702. doi: 10.1509/jmkr.43.4.693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gedney, J. (2003). Finding success after a dead end. Sales & Marketing Management, 64.Google Scholar
  30. Giacobbe, R. W. (1991). Adaptive selling behavior and sales performance effectiveness: A contingency approach. in Ph.D. Dissertation. Arizona State University.Google Scholar
  31. Hair, J. F., Anderson, R. E., Tatham, R. L., & Black, W. C. (1995). Multivariate data analysis with readings (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  32. Hulland, J. (1999). Use of partial least squares (pls) in strategic management research: a review of four recent studies. Strategic Management Journal, 20(2), 195–204. doi: 10.1002/(SICI) 1097-0266(199902) 20:2<195::AID-SMJ13>3.0.CO;2-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ingram, T. N., & Bellenger, D. N. (1983). Personal and organizational variables: their relative effect on reward valences of industrial salespeople. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 20(2), 198–205. doi: 10.2307/3151686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jaramillo, F., Carrillat, F. A., & Locander, W. B. (2003). Starting to solve the method puzzle in salesperson self-report evaluations. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 23(4), 369.Google Scholar
  35. Johlke, M. C., Duhan, D. F., Howell, R. D., & Wilkes, R. W. (2000). An integrated model of sales managers’ communication practices. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 28(2), 263–277. doi: 10.1177/0092070300282007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Johnston, M. W., Parasuraman, A., & Futrell, C. M. (1989). Extending a model of salesperson role perceptions and work-related attitudes: Impact of job tenure. Journal of Business Research, 18(4), 269–290. doi: 10.1016/0148-2963(89) 90022-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jones, E., Brown, S. P., Zoltners, A. A., & Weitz, B. A. (2005). The changing environment of selling and sales management. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 25(2), 105–111.Google Scholar
  38. Keillor, B. D., Parker, R. S., & Pettijohn, C. E. (2000). Relationship-oriented characteristics and individual sales performance. Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, 15(1), 7–22. doi: 10.1108/08858620010311520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kidwell, B., McFarland, R. G., & Avila, R. A. (2007). Perceiving emotion in the buyer-seller interchange: the moderated impact on performance. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 27(2), 119–132. doi: 10.2753/PSS0885-3134270201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Law, K. S., & Wong, C.-S. (1999). Multidimensional constructs in structural equation analysis: an illustration using the job perception and job satisfaction constructs. Journal of Management, 25(2), 143–160. doi: 10.1016/S0149-2063(99) 80007-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Levy, M., & Sharma, A. (1994). Adaptive selling: the role of gender, age, sales experience, and education. Journal of Business Research, 31(1), 39–47. doi: 10.1016/0148-2963(94) 90044-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Low, G. S., Cravens, D. W., Grant, K., & Moncrief, W. C. (2001). Antecedents and consequences of salesperson burnout. European Journal of Marketing, 35(5/6), 587. doi: 10.1108/03090560110388123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Marks, R., Vorhies, D. W., & Badovick, G. J. (1996). A psychometric evaluation of the adapts scale: a critique and recommendations. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 16(4), 53–65.Google Scholar
  44. Marshall, G. W., Goebel, D. J., & Moncrief, W. C. (2003). Hiring for success at the buyer-seller interface. Journal of Business Research, 56(4), 247–255. doi: 10.1016/S0148-2963(02) 00435-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. McFarland, R. G., Challagalla, G. N., & Shervani, T. A. (2006). Influence tactics for effective adaptive selling. Journal of Marketing, 70(4), 103–117. doi: 10.1509/jmkg.70.4.103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mikulincer, M., Orbach, I., & Iavnieli, D. (1998). Adult attachment style and affect regulation: Strategic variations in subjective self-other similarity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(2), 436–448. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.75.2.436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Moncrief, W. C., Marshall, G. W., & Lassk, F. G. (2006). A contemporary taxonomy of sales positions. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 26(1), 55–65. doi: 10.2753/PSS0885-3134260105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nunnally, J. C. (1978). Psychometric theory (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  49. Palmatier, R. W., Dant, R. P., Grewal, D., & Evans, K. R. (2006). Factors influencing the effectiveness of relationship marketing: a meta-analysis. Journal of Marketing, 70(4), 1. doi: 10.1509/jmkg.70.4.136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Periatt, J. A., LeMay, S. A., & Chakrabarty, S. (2004). The selling orientation-customer orientation (Soco) scale: Cross-validation of the revised version. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 24(1), 49–54.Google Scholar
  51. Pettijohn, C. E., Pettijohn, L. S., & Taylor, A. J. (2007). Does salesperson perception of the importance of sales skills improve sales performance, customer orientation, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment, and reduce turnover? Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 27(1), 75–88. doi: 10.2753/PSS0885-3134270105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Plank, R. E., & Reid, D. A. (1994). The mediating role of sales behaviors: an alternative perspective of sales performance and effectiveness. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 14(3), 43–56.Google Scholar
  53. Plouffe, C. R., & Barclay, D. W. (2007). Salesperson navigation: the intraorganizational dimension of the sales role. Industrial Marketing Management, 36(4), 528–539. doi: 10.1016/j.indmarman.2006.02.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rackham, N. (1988). Spin selling. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  55. Rackham, N., & DeVincentis, J. R. (1999). Rethinking the sales force: Redefining selling to create and capture customer value. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  56. Reinartz, W., Krafft, M., & Hoyer, W. D. (2004). The customer relationship management process: its measurement and impact on performance. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 41(3), 293–305. doi: 10.1509/jmkr. Scholar
  57. Rentz, J. O., Shepherd, C. D., Tashchian, A., Dobholkar, P. A., & Ladd, R. T. (2002). A measure of selling skill: Scale development and validation. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 22(1), 13–21.Google Scholar
  58. Rich, G. A., Bommer, W. H., MacKenzie, S. B., Podsakoff, P. M., & Johnson, J. L. (1999). Apples and apples or apples and oranges? A meta-analysis of objective and subjective measures of salesperson performance. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 19(4), 41–52.Google Scholar
  59. Riordan, E. A., Oliver, R. L., & Donnelly, J. H., Jr. (1977). The unsold prospect: Dyadic and attitudinal determinants. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 14(4), 530–537. doi: 10.2307/3151193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Robinson, L. J., Marshall, G. W., Lassk, F. G., & Moncrief, W. C. (2000). Measuring adaptive selling behavior: A re-examination of the adapts scale. In J. M. Hawes (Ed.), National conference in sales management. Anaheim, CA: Fisher Institute for Professional Selling.Google Scholar
  61. Saxe, R., & Weitz, B. A. (1982). The soco scale: a measure of the customer orientation of salespeople. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 19(3), 343–351. doi: 10.2307/3151568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Schwepker, C. H., Jr. (2003). Customer-oriented selling: a review, extension, and directions for future research. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 23(2), 151–171.Google Scholar
  63. Seligman, M. E. P., & Schulman, P. (1986). Explanatory style as a predictor of productivity and quitting among life insurance sales agents. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(4), 10.1037/0022-3514.50.4.832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sharma, A., & Stafford, T. F. (2000). The effect of retail atmospherics on customers’ perceptions of salespeople and customer persuasion: an empirical investigation. Journal of Business Research, 49(2), 183–191. doi: 10.1016/S0148-2963(99) 00004-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Siguaw, J. A., & Honeycutt, E. D., Jr. (1995). An examination of gender differences in selling behaviors and job attitudes. Industrial Marketing Management, 24(1), 45–52. doi: 10.1016/0019-8501(94) 00030-Z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Singh, J. (1998). Striking a balance in boundary-spanning positions: an investigation of some unconventional influences of role stressors and job characteristics on job outcomes of salespeople. Journal of Marketing, 62(3), 69–86. doi: 10.2307/1251744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Spiro, R. L., & Perreault, W. D., Jr. (1979). Influence use by industrial salesmen: influence-strategy mixes and situational determinants. Journal of Business, 52(3), 435–455. doi: 10.1086/296057.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Spiro, R. L., & Weitz, B. A. (1990). Adaptive selling: Conceptualization, measurement, and nomological validity. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 27(1), 61–69. doi: 10.2307/3172551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Stein, D. (2006). Evaluating sales training companies: Why doing it wrong will cost you millions. Training.Google Scholar
  70. Stevens, H., & Kinni, T. (2007). Achieve sales excellence: The 7 customer rules for becoming the new sales professional. New York, NY: Platinum.Google Scholar
  71. Stock, R. M., & Hoyer, W. D. (2005). An attitude-behavior model of salespeople’s customer orientation. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 33(4), 536–552. doi: 10.1177/0092070305276368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Strout, E. (2003). First person: Dealing with difficult prospects. Sales and Marketing Management, 155(2), 51.Google Scholar
  73. Sujan, H. (1999). Optimism and street-smarts: Identifying and improving salesperson intelligence. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 19(3), 17–33.Google Scholar
  74. Swenson, M. J., & Herche, J. (1994). Social values and salesperson performance: an empirical examination. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 22(3), 283–289. doi: 10.1177/0092070394223009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Thomas, R. W., Soutar, G. N., & Ryan, M. M. (2001). The selling orientation-customer orientation (S.O.C.O.) scale: a proposed short form. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 21(1), 63–69.Google Scholar
  76. Tuli, K. R., Kohli, A. K., & Bharadwaj, S. G. (2007). Rethinking customer solutions: from product bundles to relational processes. Journal of Marketing, 71(3), 1–17. doi: 10.1509/jmkg.71.3.1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Vinchur, A. J., Schippmann, J. S., Switzer, F. S., III, & Roth, P. L. (1998). A meta-analytic review of predictors of job performance for salespeople. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(4), 586–597. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.83.4.586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Wachner, T., Plouffe, C. R., & Grégoire, Y. (2009). Soco’s impact on individual sales performance: the integration of selling skills as a missing link. Industrial Marketing Management, 38(1), 32–44. doi: 10.1016/j.indmarman.2007.11.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Walker, O. C., Jr., Churchill, G. A., Jr., & Ford, N. M. (1977). Motivation and performance in industrial selling: Present knowledge and needed research. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 14(2), 156–168. doi: 10.2307/3150465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Wang, G., & Netemeyer, R. G. (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(3), 217.Google Scholar
  81. Weitz, B. A. (1978). Relationship between salesperson performance and understanding of customer decision making. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 15(4), 501–516. doi: 10.2307/3150621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Weitz, B. A. (1981). Effectiveness in sales interactions: a contingency framework. Journal of Marketing, 45(1), 85–103. doi: 10.2307/1251723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Weitz, B. A., & Bradford, K. D. (1999). Personal selling and sales management: a relationship marketing perspective. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 27(2), 241–254. doi: 10.1177/0092070399272008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Weitz, B. A., Sujan, H., & Sujan, M. (1986). Knowledge, motivation, and adaptive behavior: a framework for improving selling effectiveness. Journal of Marketing, 50(4), 174–191. doi: 10.2307/1251294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Williams, B. C., & Plouffe, C. R. (2007). Assessing the evolution of sales knowledge: a 20-year content analysis. Industrial Marketing Management, 36(4), 408–419. doi: 10.1016/j.indmarman.2005.11.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Zoltners, A. A., Sinha, P., & Lorimer, S. E. (2006). Match your sales force structure to your business life cycle. Harvard Business Review, 84(7/8), 80–89.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher R. Plouffe
    • 1
  • John Hulland
    • 2
  • Trent Wachner
    • 3
  1. 1.College of BusinessFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Katz Graduate School of BusinessUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.College of BusinessCreighton UniversityOmahaUSA

Personalised recommendations