Predicting sales performance: A discriminant analysis based on reinforcement sensitivity theory

by Senft, Todd, Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2012, 176 pages; 3498745


Many U.S. companies struggle with hiring effective sales representatives, which is often financially detrimental to the firm. The purpose of this study was to help sales managers make true positive and true negative hiring decisions leading to reduced turnover costs, increased revenue, and improved return on investment. The study was based on Jeffrey A. Gray's reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST); a biological process model that posits that motivational behavior is dictated by each individual's unique sensitivities to reward and threat stimuli. RST put forth the idea that reward and threat sensitivities are derived from two independent neurological systems: (a) an approach system that responds to positive stimuli, and (b) an inhibition system that responds to negative stimuli. A quantitative methodology and survey design tested RST and its constructs of approach and inhibition to determine if they could be used to predict membership into groups of non-quota performing (Q−) versus quota performing (Q+) sales representatives. A total of 102 U.S. sales representatives from a global medical device company participated in the study. Men represented 65 cases and women represented 37 cases. Each participant completed a 24-item survey instrument (Carver, C. S., & White, T. L., 1994, Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: The BIS/BAS scales) that measured three Behavioral Approach System (BAS) constructs and one Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) construct. Only one of the four scales showed a significant difference in mean scores between Q− and Q+ groups, which was insufficient to develop a discriminant analysis predictive function. The BAS Drive scale was significant (t = 2.047, p = .043) with the Q− group reflecting a greater average BAS Drive score than the Q+ group; indicating their relatively greater sensitivity to the pursuit of rewards. Although this finding seemed contrary to RST, it is a relatively new and nascent theory. The paucity of RST research in the literature, especially regarding its relationship to sales performance, provides ample opportunities for further research.

AdviserLilburn Hoehn
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsManagement; Occupational psychology
Publication Number3498745

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