Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Applicant Perceptions of the Gender Effect on the Selling Process and on Targeting Prospective Customers: Does Gender Matter?

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Applicant Perceptions of the Gender Effect on the Selling Process and on Targeting Prospective Customers: Does Gender Matter?

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, as more women have joined the sales force, women have proven to be as successful as men in the traditionally male-dominated field of selling; yet they still face some barriers in gaining entry to some selling jobs (Fugate et al., 1988; "Pink Ghetto in Sales," 1988). Some barriers are caused by sales managers' beliefs in gender stereotypes (Kanuk, 1978). Several prior studies (Comer and Jolson, 1991; Russ and McNeily, 1988; Swan and Futrell, 1978; Swan, Rink, Kiser and Martin, 1984) of women in sales suggest that stereotypes of women in selling still exist from both managers and potential customers. A study by Comer and Jolson (1991) showed that, according to sales managers' perceptions, the more a saleswoman's behavior resembles the negative gender stereotype, the less effective her selling performance. The current study examines two fundamental issues: (1) whether negative (or positive) gender stereotypes are predictors of, or even associated with, selling performance, and (2) whether gender similarity/dissimilarity between salespersons and potential buyers impacts sales efforts during the selling process and in targeting efforts in finding new customers. These issues have apparently not been addressed by prior research. The current study could have important managerial implications for recruiting and developing effective sales force training programs and strategies.

Prior literature concerning gender effects in the sales field have focused on two main areas: one area of research has examined the effect of gender on interview processes and recruiting outcomes; and another area of research examined the impact of buyer-seller gender on sales performance. Several studies have investigated gender bias during the employment interview and attempted to separate the effects of applicant gender and recruiter gender on recruiters' evaluations (Arvey and Faley, 1988; Powell, 1987). These prior studies produced mixed results concerning the effect of the similarity of applicant gender and recruiter gender on interview outcomes. For example, a study by Graves and Powell (1988) found that applicant gender had no significant effect on the interview outcome; while the results of another study by Graves and Powell (1995) showed that female recruiters saw male applicants as more similar to themselves and more qualified than female applicants.

Other research that examined the gender effect in selling has covered such issues as female managers' leadership style (Comer et al., 1995; Yammarino et al., 1997); sex-role identity (Jolson and Comer, 1992); stereotypical behavior and perceptions of gender stereotyping (Comer and Jolson, 1991; Russ and McNeilly, 1988); and professional status (Gable and Reed, 1987). Concerning the gender effect on sales performance, past studies (Crosby, Evan, and Cowles, 1990; Smith, 1998) suggest that gender similarity between sales persons and customers is positively related to the quality of the sales person/customer relationship and sales performance. Crosby et al. (1990) found that same-gender relationships seem to be associated with greater relationship investment, more open communication, and greater trust and satisfaction within relationships. These findings support conventional wisdom that exchange relationships are easier to develop with similar others (Churchill et al., 1997). An earlier study by Churchill et al., (1975) found a significant relationship between visible similarity (i.e., gender, race, age, and nationality) and sales performance. However, other studies (Crosby et al., 1990; Weitz, 1981) suggest that the relationship that exists between dyadic similarity and salesperson performance is weak at best.

An empirical study by Dwyer, Orlando, Shephard (1998) showed that female salespeople were just as effective as male salespeople, and gender similarity was not a significant factor in sales performance. In addition, their study found that male-female and female-male mismatched dyads significantly outperformed gender-matched dyads. …

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