By representing their companies to customers, sales personnel play a critical role in
ensuring their companies' success in building relationships and operating profitably
(Weitz and Bradford 1999). Since sales representatives may engage in dysfunctional
behaviors that can negatively affect a company, Supervisory Control Systems
Sales force control systems involve the procedures that sales organizations use to
monitor, direct, evaluate, and control the sales force. Anderson and Oliver (1987)
suggest that supervisory control systems are either behavior-oriented (i.e., focused on
salesperson behaviors) or outcome-oriented (i.e., focused on salesperson outcomes or
results), thus proposing these as contrary views of a single construct. A behavior-
orientation focuses on activities leading up to the sale, and is similar to the educational
field's construct of learning orientation in which students are focused on developing their
competencies of various concepts and ideas. In the same way, outcome-orientation
parallels education's results-orientation, where the emphasis is on student grades/test
results. Education scholars provide evidence that behavior-orientation is not simply
opposite outcome-orientation by reporting a positive correlation between learning- and
results-orientations (Meece, Blumenfeld, and Hoyle 1988). Ames and Archer (1988)
prompt us to question the continuum view of behavior- and outcome-orientation by
reporting no significant relationship between the two, suggesting that a behavior- or
learning-orientation is not on the same continuum as an outcome- or results-orientation.
Research suggests that the control process is more complex than the behavior-outcome
continuum, as evidenced by mixed results reported in the literature (cf. Cravens et al.
1993; Jaworski, Stathakopoulos, and Krishnan 1993; Lusch and Jaworski 1991; Oliver
and Anderson 1994; see Appendix A). For example, Cravens et al.'s (1993) research
suggests outcome-focused controls (higher incentive compensation) are not positively
related to selling performance. Conversely, Jaworski, Stathakopoulos, and Krishnan
(1993) find that supervisory output controls positively affect a sales representative's
performance orientation, which, in turn, positively affects selling performance.
Recognizing the ambiguous findings in the literature, Challagalla and Shervani (1996)
test a framework of three supervisory controls (outcome control, activity control, and
capability control) and three control activities or levers (rewards, punishments, and
information), where activity control and capability control comprise the earlier construct
of behavior control.