SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING AND SALES FORCE PERFORMANCE: AN INTEGRATED FRAMEWORK

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In the boundary-spanning role that salespeople occupy between an organization and its clientele, they are often required to be autonomous and to learn to solve problems without direction from supervisors, trainers, or educators. This paper proposes that sales managers can use the adult education concept of self-directed learning to supplement traditional sales force training and educational methods to improve the performance of salespeople. An integrative framework is used to explain the four types of self-directed learning projects used by salespeople—induced, synergistic, voluntary, and scanning. Sales managers can use these different types of self-directed learning projects to help tailor the independent learning conducted by salespeople. The antecedent variables leading to successful implementation of these projects are examined—the trait of learner self-directedness, self-directed learning skills, the need for contextual understanding of the project topic, and motivation to engage in a self-directed learning project. Environmental influences, organizational learning climate, and pertinent outcomes are reviewed. A series of propositions are provided to encourage future research and to promote an organized investigation into the preparation and development of salespeople using self-directed learning methods.