Academic journal article International Journal of Marketing Studies

Making Marketers Ethical: Background Variables for Sales Training Effectiveness

Academic journal article International Journal of Marketing Studies

Making Marketers Ethical: Background Variables for Sales Training Effectiveness

Article excerpt

Abstract

Though sales is a growing career within the marketing discipline, the effectiveness of sales ethics training is not keeping pace. Relatively scant attention has been paid to ethics training, and the current study seeks to correct this oversight through discussing important background values that impact ethical decision making in sales situations. These background values should be factored into the design of effective sales ethics training courses.

The study reviews the roles that idealism, relativism, personal values, religiosity, money ethics and attitudes toward business play in the determination of sales ethics judgments and choices. Results indicate that sales ethics evaluations are significantly impacted by idealism, relativism, and money ethics. Personal values indirectly influence evaluations. Religiosity and attitudes toward business do not significantly impact evaluations. Recommendations include the development of a sales education ethics model that includes both principle-based (idealism and personal values) and situation-based (relativism and money ethics) perspectives.

Keywords: ethics scale, ethics training, personal selling, sales ethics

1. Introduction

A vital component of any marketing effort, sales departments and selling careers continue to grow at a healthy rate (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). However, sales ethics training has not kept pace. Salespeople frequently assess their training as ineffective (Salopek, 2009), and the public's ongoing suspicion of sales ethics indicates that sales ethics training is not translating into demonstrable practice (Chonko, Tanner, & Weeks, 1996; Luthy, 2007; Ramsey, Marshall, Johnston, & Deeter-Schmelz, 2007). In short, traditional ethics training is failing and needs help (James Jr., 2000; Mason, 2010; Waples, Antes, Murphy, Connelly, & Mumford, 2009).

The purpose of the current research is to begin building a platform upon which the effectiveness of sales ethics training may be enhanced. In particular, the study seeks to provide a deeper understanding of common salesperson background values that should be considered in the design of effective sales ethics training programs.

The paper begins with a review of past research on sales ethics evaluations. Particular attention is given to the Personal Selling Ethics Scale (PSE-2). Next, the paper reviews past research on personal values, religiosity, money ethics, and attitudes toward business. The PSE-2 is then used to measure the two-level effects of each variable. The paper concludes by suggesting a two-level model that can be used to inform the development of ethics training applications. Specific objectives are as follows:

1) Develop an understanding of the relationships between background values (personal values, religiosity, money ethics, and attitudes toward business) and personal selling ethics evaluations.

2) Suggest academic and industrial training applications.

2. Literature Review and Hypotheses

To provide a context for the background values of salespeople, the current section begins with an overview of sales ethics evaluation research. It then continues by reviewing ethical frameworks and background values such as personal values, religiosity, money ethics, and attitudes toward business.

2.1 Sales Ethics Evaluations

Varying methodologies have been used to examine sales ethics. A frequent approach involves using scales to review ethical scenarios (Borkowski & Ugras, 1992; Whipple & Swords, 1992). Dabholkar and Kellaris (1992) developed a scale specifically designed for sales situations. Their Personal Selling Ethics scale (PSE) is a set of 20 scenarios designed to measure the ethical judgments of sales professionals and/or students to questionable ethical scenarios in sales. The scale has been used to uncover the following (Dabholkar & Kellaris, 1992; Donoho et al., 1998):

* situational differences affect ethical evaluations in sales

* questionable sales practices involving money are viewed as less ethical than questionable practices that do not involve money

* questionable sales practices affecting customers are viewed as less ethical than questionable practices involving employers or competitors

* women are more sensitive to ethical misconduct in sales than men

* religious practice affects ethical evaluations

* ethical judgments vary widely among individuals. …

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