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Professor Brad Carlson Tests Selective Sales Force Training

Companies spend billions of dollars on dedicating week-long events to train their employees. Associate Professor of Marketing at the Chaifetz School of Business, Brad Carlson, Ph.D., conducted a research study to find out whether selective sales force training is effective.

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Professor Brad Carlson, Ph.D., conducted a research study to test whether selective sales force training is effective.

Real-world Research Application

Carlson and his colleagues analyzed three different training policies: full, selective and no training, to see which policy was most effective.

"Despite its many benefits, training salespeople is resource intensive: it reduces the in-store availability of those salespeople who receive training, and the opportunity cost of sending salespeople off the floor is often too high," Carlson said. "Selective training can save significant time and money for managers whose salespeople have similar performance levels."

Carlson's research study revealed that training only a portion of salespeople (selective) can be highly effective.

"Our research demonstrates that training a subset of the sales force can be a highly effective strategy," Carlson said. "Our findings offer direct objective instructions to managers on when to use either selective or full training and what configuration of salespeople should be trained so that the entire store benefits from their training."

The study showed that full training, training the entire sales force rather than a subset of salespeople, is preferred in stores with high-performance diversity among the sales team, he said.

"However, if training the entire sales team is not possible, our findings suggest that managers can systematically identify which group of salespeople should be trained so that the entire store benefits from their training," Carlson said. "Specifically, managers should choose a group of salespeople who are diverse in tenure (i.e., length of time with the organization) to enhance knowledge spillover."

These new findings allow businesses to strategically train salespeople in spreading knowledge across the team, furthering companies' success.

"Given the focus of SLU on creating and disseminating knowledge, I am surrounded by colleagues and a culture that encourages and recognizes productivity in research," Carlson said.

Research Recognition

Carlson was awarded the American Marketing Association's Sales Special Interest Group 2019 Excellence Research Award for the Journal of Marketing research article, "Does Selective Sales Force Training Work?," a study he conducted with Drs. Yashar Atefi, Michael Ahearne, James G. Maxham III and D. Todd Donavan.

"I am humbled and honored to be recognized by my peers and colleagues within the American Marketing Association and the marketing discipline for engaging in research that is meaningful and relevant," Carlson said.