Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Daryl McKee


A primary objective of marketing practitioners, especially sales managers in organizations with personal selling functions and salesforces, has been an understanding of the factors related to effective sales performance. Much of the current research dedicated to understanding these factors has been grounded in Vroom's expectancy theory. Expectancy theory posits that successful performance of a task is a function of the level of effort that a person expends on the task. There are three factors that influence this level of effort: (1) an expectation that effort will result in better task performance; (2) a belief that better performance will result in meaningful rewards; and (3) a trust that earned rewards will be paid or given to an individual. Such past research, however, has explained only a small part of the variance in performance among salespeople. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the usefulness of Bandura's social cognitive theory in explaining a salesperson's level of performance. A central concept in social cognitive theory is that a person's level of self-efficacy, self-confidence they possess the necessary abilities to successfully perform a specific task, will have a direct influence on a person's expectancy, and thus, a person's level of effort. Bandura also suggests that modeling the behaviors of coworkers is key in the development of a person's self-efficacy. In this study of approximately 400 salespeople in automobile dealerships in Louisiana, it was found that a person's level of self-efficacy did have a significant impact on expectancy and effort. Additionally, self-efficacy was found to have an effect on the practice of adaptive selling skills by the responding salespeople. Two additional findings in the study were also significant. First, modeling the behaviors of coworkers did not influence levels of self-efficacy. Second, performance feedback from other salespeople in an organization had a much greater impact on levels of self-efficacy than did feedback from sales managers. The results of the study suggest that social cognitive theory can be utilized along with expectancy theory in developing a greater understanding of the factors related to successful sales behaviors in a personal selling environment.