When salespeople develop negative headquarters stereotypes: performance effects and managerial remedies

Abstract

This study examines the performance implications that organizations may suffer when their salespeople develop negative stereotypes of their corporate headquarters. How such stereotypes can be remedied through managerial action is also examined. The study draws on matched data from four different sources: sales managers, salespeople, customers, and company reports. Findings indicate that negative headquarters stereotypes among salespeople are associated with poor marketing-related performance across a range of outcomes, including salespeople’s adherence to corporate strategy, their customer orientation, and their sales performance. Findings also show that negative headquarters stereotypes can be remedied through managerial action, but more so at the corporate management level than at the sales unit level.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Seven types of store locations emerged in the sample of travel agencies: large-sized city, first-class; large-sized city, central; large-sized city, suburb; medium-sized city; small-sized city; airport; and shopping mall. However, including store location (operationalized as dummy variables) as a covariate did not exert any significant impact on the relationships we examined and, thus, this variable was dropped from further analyses.

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Correspondence to Christian Homburg.

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Appendix

Appendix

Scale Items for Construct Measurement

I.&II. Salespeople’s [Sales Unit Manager’s] Negative Headquarters Stereotypes (data source: sales managers and salespeople) Wittenbrink et al. (1997); Turner et al. (2007); Gardner (1994); seven-point sementic differential scale

  1. 1.

    The people in corporate headquarters know what is really involved with running a travel agency… (1) very well (7) not at all.

  2. 2.

    The people in corporate headquarters are primarily… (1) concerned with the interest of the travel agencies (7) concerned with their own interest.

  3. 3.

    The people in corporate headquarters earn… (1) too little (7) too much.

  4. 4.

    Compared to salespeople and sales managers, the people in corporate headquarters work… (1) more (7) less.

  5. 5.

    Compared to here, the working conditions in corporate headquarters are… (1) less pleasant (7) more pleasant.

  6. 6.

    Our corporate headquarters… (1) is worth more than it costs (7) costs more than it is worth.

III. Salespeople’s Adherence to Corporate Strategy (data source: salespeople) Ajzen and Madden (1986); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    I adhere to the strategic guidelines of our corporation.

  2. 2.

    I try my best to sell our corporate brands whenever it is possible.

  3. 3.

    To be able to optimally implement the strategic guidelines of my corporate headquarters, I make major efforts to stay well informed.

  4. 4.

    My main aim is to sell our corporate brands.

IV. Salespeople’s Customer Orientation (data source: customers) Thomas et al. (2001); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    The travel agent tried to figure out what my needs were.

  2. 2.

    The travel agent had my best interest in mind.

  3. 3.

    When selling me products, my needs were very important to the travel agent.

  4. 4.

    The travel agent recommended products or services that were best suited to solving my problems.

  5. 5.

    The travel agent tried to find out which kind of products or services would be most helpful to me.

V. Salespeople’s Sales Performance (data source: firm records) Schneider et al. (2005)

  1. 1.

    Annual Sales per salesperson

VI. & VII. Corporate [Sales Unit] Management’s Organizational Support (data source: salespeople) Eisenberger et al. (1986); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    Help is available from corporate [sales unit] management when I have a problem.

  2. 2.

    Corporate [sales unit] management is willing to help me when I need a special favor.

  3. 3.

    Corporate [sales unit] management cares very much about my opinion as an employee.

  4. 4.

    Corporate [sales unit] management is proud of my achievements as an employee.

VIII. & IX. Corporate [Sales Unit] Management’s Employee Orientation (data source: salespeople) Fritz (1996); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    The travel agents’ interests are at the centre of corporate [sales unit] management’s considerations.

  2. 2.

    Corporate [sales unit] management does everything for the well-being of the travel agents.

  3. 3.

    Much is done by corporate [sales unit] management for the personal and professional development of the travel agents.

  4. 4.

    Travel agent work satisfaction is a major goal of our corporate [sales unit] management.

X. & XI. Corporate [Sales Unit] Management’s Charismatic Leadership (data source: salespeople) Conger and Kanungo (1998); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    Corporate [Sales unit] management has a vision that it tries to achieve with creative ideas.

  2. 2.

    Corporate [Sales unit] management provides inspiring strategic and organizational goals.

  3. 3.

    Corporate [Sales unit] management regularly creates new ideas to make the travel agencies [travel agency] ready for the future.

  4. 4.

    Corporate [Sales unit] management is comprised of entrepreneurial people who readily seize opportunities.

  5. 5.

    Corporate [Sales unit] management recognizes new opportunities in the market that help us achieve our organizational objectives.

  6. 6.

    Corporate [Sales unit] management is able to motivate the travel agents by articulating effectively the importance of what they are doing. [dropped from further analyses]

  7. 7.

    Corporate [Sales unit] management is comprised of individuals who represent the company convincingly to the external public.

  8. 8.

    Corporate [Sales unit] management is comprised of people one can be proud of.

XII. Corporate Bureaucracy (data source: salespeople) “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    Working for [Company X] is fairly difficult because of existing regulations.

  2. 2.

    Corporate management has imposed too many standards that impede my work.

  3. 3.

    In my daily work, I experience a high degree of bureaucratic impediments at the corporate level.

  4. 4.

    When I have a good idea, it is difficult to realize it because of bureaucratic corporate obstacles.

XIII. Contact Frequency with Corporate Headquarters (data source: salespeople) Van de Ven and Ferry (1980); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    I stay in regular contact with corporate headquarters.

  2. 2.

    The Intranet is the only channel through which I have contact with corporate headquarters. (reverse coded) [dropped from further analyses]

XIV. Personalization of Contact with Corporate Headquarters (data source: salespeople) Turner et al. (2007); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    I have friends in corporate headquarters. [dropped from further analyses]

  2. 2.

    I personally know some colleagues in corporate headquarters.

  3. 3.

    I have personally seen our corporate headquarters and I know it from within.

  4. 4.

    I know our corporate headquarters very well.

XV. Perceived External Image of Company (data source: salespeople); adapted from Ahearne et al. (2005); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    Our corporation has a very good image in public.

  2. 2.

    The public appearance of our corporation is very good.

  3. 3.

    Other people like our corporate image in public.

  4. 4.

    Others like the advertising of our corporation.

XVI. Uniformity of Corporate Headquarters Members (data source: salespeople) Park and Judd (1990); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    The members of corporate headquarters are very similar.

  2. 2.

    The members of corporate headquarters share many characteristics.

  3. 3.

    The members of corporate headquarters cope very well with each other.

  4. 4.

    Generally, the performance of our headquarters members is fairly similar.

XVII. Salespeople Job Satisfaction (data source: salespeople) Hackman and Oldham (1975); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    Generally speaking, I am very satisfied with this job.

  2. 2.

    I am generally satisfied with the kind of work I do in this job.

  3. 3.

    I frequently think of quitting this job (Reverse coded).

XVIII. Salespeople Empathy (data source: salespeople) Barrett-Lennard (1981); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    I always sense exactly what customers want.

  2. 2.

    I realize what customer’s mean even when they have difficulty in saying it.

  3. 3.

    It is easy for me to take the customer’s perspective.

XIX. Sales Unit Management’s Contingent Reward (data source: sales manager) Avolio et al. (1999); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    I clarify rewards.

  2. 2.

    I assist my sales reps based on their effort.

  3. 3.

    I reward my sales reps’ achievements.

  4. 4.

    I recognize my sales reps’ achievements.

  5. 5.

    I continuously reward my sales reps’ achievements.

XX. Sales Unit Management’s Management-by-exceptions (data source: sales manager) Avolio et al. (1999); “totally disagree” to “totally agree” on a seven-point scale

  1. 1.

    I focus on my sales reps’ mistakes.

  2. 2.

    I ‘put out fires’.

  3. 3.

    I track my sales reps’ mistakes.

  4. 4.

    I concentrate on my sales reps’ failures

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Homburg, C., Wieseke, J., Lukas, B.A. et al. When salespeople develop negative headquarters stereotypes: performance effects and managerial remedies. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 39, 664–682 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-010-0233-2

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Keywords

  • Stereotypes
  • Salespeople
  • Sales management
  • Corporate headquarters
  • Customer orientation