Making a sales advisor: the limits of training “instrumental empathy

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The use of participant observation is relatively rare in qualitative studies of vocational education and training. However, such an approach provides a detailed picture of training content and how what is taught contributes to or impedes learning. Based on participant observation, this paper examines the training of sales advisors in a large chain of private fitness clubs. It shows that although the training course taught trainees how to control and enchant customers, once back on ‘home’ territory trainees approached customers with far less instrumental empathy than they had been taught. This contrast is explained by reference to the past dispositions of sales workers and the local conditions in which the selling process takes place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-21
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Vocational Education and Training
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2008


  • training
  • instrumental empathy
  • sales
  • participant observation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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