"I am quite a genuine person”: Sales training and the limits of moulding instrumentality

Konstantinos Kakavelakis, Alan Felstead, Alison Fuller, Nick Jewson, Lorna Unwin

Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper


Sales work is a key feature of the contemporary service economy which has prompted considerable academic debate. This has centred on the processes of standardization exemplified by sales routines and scripts. It is frequently suggested that these management devices are unproblematically embraced by workers who share a mutual interest with management in controlling customer behaviour and masking the contradictions of simultaneously displaying empathy while ‘closing the deal’. In these accounts, sales workers are denied agency. This paper questions this assumption by presenting empirical evidence from a case
study of sales advisors in a large chain of private fitness clubs whose job is to sell annual memberships. The research involved eight interviews with trainers and managers at head office. We were also able to tape record and participate in a five day training course that all newly appointed sales advisors have to attend. We carried out interviews with all eight trainees a couple of months after the end of the course. This allowed us to follow the path of newly appointed sales advisors by hearing, seeing and experiencing the training they receive, and then
gathering data on the extent to which the training is followed on the ground. The data show that although the training course placed strong emphasis on routines designed to control customers and maximize the commission received by sales advisors, once back on ‘home’ territory advisors often chose to approach customers with less instrumentality. This contrast is explained by reference to the advisors’ past dispositions and experiences, and to the specific local conditions in which sales take place.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCardiff University
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2007

Publication series

NameLearning as Work Research Paper No11
PublisherCardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University


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