Manager directives for salesperson ambidextrous selling and resulting job satisfaction: a regulatory focus perspective

Academic Article


  • Purpose: To sustain firm profitability, it is critical for sales managers to direct business-to-business (B2B) salespeople to generate revenues by simultaneously acquiring new customers and selling to current customers. However, emerging research indicates territory-based B2B salespeople have a preferred customer engagement orientation that reflects a tendency for engaging in selling activities to new (i.e. hunters) and/or existing (i.e. farmers) customers, suggesting that managerial ambidexterity directives could have deleterious effects on salespeople. This paper aims to address this possibility by investigating the moderating effects of salesperson regulatory focus on the relationship between managerial directives for salesperson ambidexterity and salesperson job satisfaction. Design/methodology/approach: The study uses a mixed-method approach by using a field study of 106 matched sales manager–salesperson dyads from a large Fortune 500 B2B industrial distributor sales force and an experiment involving 152 B2B salespeople from a cross-section of industries. Findings: The results indicate that sales manager ambidexterity requests reduce salesperson job satisfaction. However, the findings also demonstrate that salesperson regulatory focus moderates these negative effects such that the negative effect of manager ambidexterity requests on job satisfaction is reduced for salespeople with high vs low levels of regulatory focus ambidexterity balance. The results from the cross-sectional experimental study illustrate the cognitive mechanism that helps explain why this occurs. Research limitations/implications: The Fortune 500 firm used in Study 1 uses a territory-based generalist sales force model where salespeople are not incentivized to prioritize hunting over farming (and vice versa). As a result, the findings may not generalize to firms with hunting/farming incentive systems or to those that operate in particular industries requiring a focus on either hunting or farming. Practical implications: The findings show why managers attempting to direct territory-based salespeople to increase their ambidexterity behaviors may undermine the job satisfaction of certain salespeople by triggering a decrease in motivation while the same directives have the opposite effect for other salespeople. The findings also demonstrate salesperson reactions to ambidexterity requests, which provide additional insights for effective salespeople hiring, training and management. Originality/value: The findings have implications for better understanding the effectiveness of sales management leadership directives. The study also offers a promising direction for future research to investigate salesperson receptivity to managerial controls.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • DeCarlo TE; Powers T; Sharma A
  • Start Page

  • 3010
  • End Page

  • 3032
  • Volume

  • 55
  • Issue

  • 11