Managing Laggards: The Importance of a Deep Sales Bench

Journal of Marketing Research, 56 (4), 652-665 (2019)

41 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2019

See all articles by Jeffrey Boichuk

Jeffrey Boichuk

University of Virginia - McIntire School of Commerce

Raghu Bommaraju

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Michael Ahearne

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business

Florian Kraus

University of Mannheim

Thomas J. Steenburgh

University of Virginia - Darden Graduate School of Business

Date Written: May 17, 2019

Abstract

Sales leaders often use threats of punishment to manage poor performers (i.e., laggards), but little research has examined the effect of these threats. The current research addresses this gap by investigating an intervention termed the “bench program” with a field-based quasi experiment and a randomized lab experiment. In the field, the company under study told salespeople in treatment districts that a trainee would replace them at the end of the year if they failed to hit their quota and placed last in their district. Difference-in-differences analyses of matched treatment and control groups show that the bench program had an immediate and sustained impact on performance. Moreover, laggards improved their performance more than higher performers, and salespeople with larger advice networks improved their performance more than salespeople with smaller advice networks. A lab experiment compares the bench program with a program that had the same threat of firing but did not have replacements in sight. Performance in the bench program exceeded that in the firing condition, indicating that the vividness of a threat can increase its deterrent value.

Keywords: Advice networks, Incentives, Matching methods, Punishments, Sales force

Suggested Citation

Boichuk, Jeffrey and Bommaraju, Raghu and Ahearne, Michael and Kraus, Florian and Steenburgh, Thomas J., Managing Laggards: The Importance of a Deep Sales Bench (May 17, 2019). Journal of Marketing Research, 56 (4), 652-665 (2019), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3390495

Jeffrey Boichuk

University of Virginia - McIntire School of Commerce ( email )

P.O. Box 400173
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4173
United States

Raghu Bommaraju

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Michael Ahearne

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business ( email )

334 Melcher Hall
Houston, TX 77204-6021
United States
713-743-4155 (Phone)
713-743-4572 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.bauer.uh.edu/Directory/profile.asp?firstname=Michael&lastname=Ahearne

Florian Kraus

University of Mannheim ( email )

Germany
+49.621.181 2662 (Phone)
+49.621.181 2672 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://kraus.bwl.uni-mannheim.de/de/team/prof_dr_florian_kraus/

Thomas J. Steenburgh (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden Graduate School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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