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Developing an Incentive Plan for Sales Personnel from Different Cultures

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DEVELOPING AN INCENTIVE PLAN FOR SALES PERSONNEL FROM DIFFERENT CULTURES

Expanded Background Selling is an integral part of international business. For consumer goods, customers usually meet with sales personnel in retail stores. For industrial goods, the sales personnel usually visit potential buyers in their offices. Sales personnel may be expatriates (home-country nationals who re-locate abroad) or host-country nationals. Firms usually prefer to hire hostcountry nationals, because they are less expensive than expatriates to employ and house. But hiring foreign nationals poses challenges because of the cultural differences that characterize such personnel. Motivating the sales force is challenging because of differences in values and norms across cultures.

In order to inspire a culturally diverse sales force, managers in charge of international sales must acquire specific knowledge and skills. Sophisticated managers are sensitive to the needs and personality traits of the sales personnel that they supervise. The most successful managers possess a deep understanding of human behavior and are able to use these skills to their advantage. They are aware that sales personnel from different cultures fall into a range of different personality types. For example, factors that motivate a sales associate from Japan are likely to differ substantially from those that motivate a sales associate from Sweden. This is because the two sales personnel differ along various cultural dimensions.

Typical factors that management uses to motivate sales personnel include pay increases, prospects for promotion, job security, self-esteem, social recognition, and personal growth and development. The effectiveness of the sales force must be evaluated regularly, to ensure sales goals are being met and provide a basis for improving selling performance.

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