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A Three-Country Study of Unethical Sales Behaviors

Abstract

A major challenge in global sales research is helping managers understand sales ethics across countries. Addressing this challenge, our research investigates whether a few demographic variables and psychographic variables reduce unethical sales behaviors (USBs) in Canada, Mexico, and the USA. Further, using literatures associated with business ethics, national culture, and customer orientation advocacy, we hypothesize why sales managers should expect similarities and differences in USBs between countries. We tested hypotheses using a sales contest scenario and six USBs, examining survey responses from 948 business-to-business salespeople of a multinational company’s sales force in Canada, Mexico, and the USA. The results reveal that several psychographic variables (such as commitment, relationship to sales manager, and achievement need) affect salespeople’s tendency to engage in USBs differently in each country. In addition, business ethics, individualism, and customer orientation advocacy associated with each country can be used to anticipate similarities and differences in USBs between countries. This research offers important theoretical contributions and implications for more effectively managing sales forces and reducing USBs across countries.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Despite this positive commentary, Swanson (2004, p. 43) reports that in many business schools, the ethics component bar is set fairly low, seemingly designed solely to meet standards. As result, it is possible that business students “get the message that practicing managers have little or no legal and ethical responsibilities to society”.

  2. Rindfleisch et al. (2008) indicate that a cross-sectional approach may be adequate in many situations such as studies that sample highly educated respondents. The average education level of our 948 respondents is a college graduate, suggesting that our cross-sectional design may be satisfactory for establishing our model’s causal links.

Abbreviations

CPI:

Corruption perceptions index

MNC:

Multinational company

NAFTA:

North American Free Trade Agreement

USB:

Unethical sales behavior

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Correspondence to Ning Li.

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Ning Li and William H. Murphy contributed equally to this work.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 6.

Table 6 Measures and measure performance of multiple-item constructs

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Li, N., Murphy, W.H. A Three-Country Study of Unethical Sales Behaviors. J Bus Ethics 111, 219–235 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1203-z

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Keywords

  • Achievement need
  • Commitment
  • Compensation
  • Customer orientation
  • Leadership
  • National culture
  • Sales ethics
  • Sales management
  • Salespeople
  • Unethical sales behavior