Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Business Administration



First Advisor

Scott Vitell

Second Advisor

John P. Bentley

Third Advisor

Melissa Cinelli

Relational Format



Determining why salespeople put forth more effort than others is of particular interest to sales researchers. Identifying factors that influence the intensity of effort is an important area of research. This research proposes that salesperson product attachment is a key factor in determining effort levels. Expectancy theory has been frequently used to support the use of quotas in that salespeople engage in behaviors that will be perceived by them as most likely to yield valued rewards. Thus, according to this theory, salespeople will place the most effort on products that are expected to yield the best results in regards to the quota system. However, this research uses attachment theory and the theory of human needs to demonstrate that salespeople may act in less rational ways, by placing more effort on products to which they feel strongly attached even if these specific products are less likely to yield the best results financially. Through qualitative interviews, antecedents of attachment are identified. These antecedents were empirically tested in Study 1, using a Qualtrics panel of salespeople. Using structural equation modeling, identification and ownership were shown to directly and positively impact attachment. Study 2 consisted of paired results from salespeople and managers at a large food brokerage company. In this study, the antecedents of identification and ownership were again found to significantly lead to attachment, thus demonstrating the robustness of the results. In addition, it was determined that attachment directly and positively impacts effort level and that high market share products can weaken this link. Finally, the relationships between quota and effort and between effort and performance were confirmed. This research has important implications for both theory and practice. An important predictor of effort, salesperson product attachment, is identified. Attachment theory is thus extended into sales research. In addition, identification and ownership were found to be significant predictors of attachment, which supports human needs theory by meeting the needs of relatedness and autonomy, respectively. Based on this research, managers can encourage attachments through increasing feelings of identification and ownership among their salespeople in order to increase effort, particularly among low market share products.


Emphasis: Marketing

Included in

Marketing Commons



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