“I am a genuine person”: sales training and the limits of moulding instrumentality
- Publisher: Cardiff
Sales work is a key feature of the contemporary service economy which\ud has prompted considerable academic debate. This has centred on the\ud processes of standardization exemplified by sales routines and scripts. It\ud is frequently suggested that these management devices are\ud unproblematically embraced by workers who share a mutual interest\ud with management in controlling customer behaviour and masking the\ud contradictions of simultaneously displaying empathy while ‘closing the\ud deal’. In these accounts, sales workers are denied agency. This paper\ud questions this assumption by presenting empirical evidence from a case\ud study of sales advisors in a large chain of private fitness clubs whose job\ud is to sell annual memberships. The research involved eight interviews\ud with trainers and managers at head office. We were also able to tape\ud record and participate in a five day training course that all newly\ud appointed sales advisors have to attend. We carried out interviews with\ud all eight trainees a couple of months after the end of the course. This\ud allowed us to follow the path of newly appointed sales advisors by\ud hearing, seeing and experiencing the training they receive, and then\ud gathering data on the extent to which the training is followed on the\ud ground. The data show that although the training course placed strong\ud emphasis on routines designed to control customers and maximize the\ud commission received by sales advisors, once back on ‘home’ territory\ud advisors often chose to approach customers with less instrumentality.\ud This contrast is explained by reference to the advisors’ past dispositions\ud and experiences, and to the specific local conditions in which sales take\ud place.