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New Research: Sweden's Salespeople Too Hesitant?

DALLAS, March 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Retailers' bottom line sales depend on "floor traffic." But, they don't emphasize responsive client/customer engagement as much as their direct sales counterparts. After all, good products and services sell themselves. Right?

Not according to a research study to be presented at the April, 2009 annual convention of the Southwestern Psychological Association in San Antonio, Texas. George W. Dudley and Trelitha R. Bryant, scientists at Behavioral Sciences Research Press in Dallas, examined the customer engagement behavior of 1,160 U.S. salespeople working in retail sales settings. A smaller sample of 209 non-U.S. salespeople was also included for comparison purposes. The researchers studied how many times the salespeople initiated conversation with "walk-in" prospective buyers during the prior work week. Results showed that 502 (43.3%) engaged prospective walk-in customers only 1-5 times during the measurement period. To find out why so many salespeople failed to engage walk-ins, the sample was divided into groups based on number of contacts made. Researchers then compared the number of contacts made to scores obtained on SPQ*GOLD, a limited purpose psychological test used to assess emotional discomfort associated with initiating contact with prospective buyers. "Salespeople with under-average customer engagement had significantly higher levels of Sales Call Reluctance," Bryant said. "The low customer engagement group had higher scores on ten of the twelve known Call Reluctance types, plus an overall measure." The results are consistent with a prior multi-nation study of 199,000 salespeople they completed which included 3,367 salespeople in Sweden. That study produced a surprising paradox: A number of people now working in sales who don't want to talk to anyone. How many? "7-9% of the salespeople in Sweden, 20% in Norway and a larger percent in Finland," Bryant estimates. Among the additional results, the researchers found:

    - In social situations, 25% of Swedish salespeople wait for others to
      initiate conversation first.
    - Currently, 12% of Swedish salespeople would rather be working in a
      procedural profession like research and development, not sales or
    - 11% of Swedish salespeople are not comfortable using the telephone to
      contact prospective buyers.
    - In Sweden, the number of contact reluctant salespeople is steadily
      growing. It was 6.7% in 2001, 7.1% in 2003, 8.4% in 2004 and 9.4% in

"This study has practical consequences," Dudley said. "It shows the economy may not be the only thing driving down sales. The attitudes, aptitudes and personality attributes of the people doing the selling are also influential factors. Sales organizations might want to tighten the procedures they use to select salespeople. Our results suggest current protocols may not be working."

Trelitha R. Bryant is Vice-President of Field Testing & Research at Behavioral Sciences Research Press in Dallas, Texas. George W. Dudley is co-author of the textbook, The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance and principal author of The Hard Truth About Soft Selling.

STOCKHOLM INTERVIEWS: Bryant will be available in Stockholm for in-studio and call-in interviews from Mar 9 - Mar. 13, evenings 6-9 p.m.

Support Charts Available

    Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click
    appropriate link.

    George W. Dudley

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