Strong Internal Social Networks Lead to Better Sales Performance

Eden Ames
AMA Scholarly Insights
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Key Takeaways

WHAT? Strong social networks between a salesperson and his/her company can increase sales performance.

SO WHAT? Intra-firm social networks account for just as much (if not more) variance in sales performance as external relationships with customers.

NOW WHAT? Managers should incorporate training in intra-firm social networking just as much as time is made for training in content knowledge. 

Scholarly Insights: AMA's digest of the latest findings from marketing's top researchers

Given the outward-facing nature of sales, researchers intuitively examine relationships between the employee and customer when determining sales performance.

However, new research from the Journal of Marketing finds that internal relationships among employees and managers can be just as important. The research indicates that connectedness within the company prompts salespeople to perform better with customers. According to authors Willy Bolander, Cinthia B. Satornino, Douglas E. Hughes, and Gerald R. Ferris:

“…internal social network structures, and the implied social capital that occupying advantageous network positions provides, affect not only internal outcomes such as performance evaluations and job satisfaction for salespeople but also salespeople’s ability to generate actual sales."


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The study consisted of a social network analysis within a single company. The researchers used significant relationships within the organization to predict and measure objective salesperson performance. The results indicate that employees who were well-connected internally performed better. And it wasn’t just employees being connected to managers who fared best. In fact, the individuals who demonstrated political skill and positive behavior were more successful. In other words, a gregarious employee, regardless of position status, produces higher sales performance as a result of strong intra-firm social networks.

Even though position status did not necessarily factor into performance, a worker’s social disposition played a role in determining their positional status. The authors note that extroverted salespeople were more likely to have more central positions. Individuals who are outgoing build more connections, not because they are strategizing to secure higher-status positions, but because their nature finds satisfaction in relationships with anyone—including managers and supervisors. 

 

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Managers looking to boost sales performance and refine training efforts should implement this research in the following ways:

1. Recognize that internal relationships are as important as external relationships when it comes to sales. Since internal social networking factors into how salespeople perform, it is important for managers to make time for developing in-company relationships. Managers can encourage intra-organizational social networking by coordinating events and interdepartmental interaction.

2. Train salespeople in developing political skills. While content and firm knowledge are important in training, managers should also make time to develop interpersonal influence, social astuteness, networking ability and sincerity in sales employees.

3. Take into account the personality of each employee. Managers must realize that some personalities are more outgoing than others. It is important to consider the social qualities of potential hires in order to maintain reasonable expectations. Managers can also pair less extroverted salespeople with those who are more outgoing.

 

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Article Citation:

Willy Bolander, Cinthia B. Satornino, Douglas E. Hughes, and Gerald R. Ferris (2015) "Social Networks Within Sales Organizations: Their Development and Importance for Salesperson Performance." Journal of Marketing In-Press. 


Author Bio:

 
Eden Ames
Eden Ames is a Digital Content Producer for the American Marketing Association. You can reach her at eames@ama.org.
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