Why the Shortened ADAPTS Scale Should Not Be Used for Sales Students: An Abstract
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Student samples are uncommon in professional sales research, but are useful for studying sales education. Because adaptive selling is a core concept of personal selling, it may be useful to measure the adaptive selling behaviors of sales students. However, in order to measure adaptive selling behaviors as a single construct, items contain a high level of abstraction that may be difficult for students to fully comprehend. One of the most commonly used measures of adaptive selling behaviors is the shortened RMML ADAPTs scale. That scale contains the phrase “selling approach” in four of the five items. Sales students could interpret “sales approach” as referring to a variety of sales behaviors such as influencing tactics, service/product offerings, communication channels, verbal communications, and nonverbal communications. If students lack a stable understanding of the “sales approach,” it may be difficult for them to accurately respond to items containing that concept. Due to the complexity of such estimation, students may rely on their self-rated performance. Students are typically asked about their adaptive selling behaviors based on specific class activities, role-plays, and/or sales simulations. It is likely that students find it easier to rate their performance than their adaptive behaviors because performance often has objective outcomes such as class grade, instructor feedback, and/or activity success. Students may then base their ratings of adaptive behaviors on their perceived self-rated performance. Adaptive selling behaviors items are worded positively so that if the salespeople have high performance it is logical that they must be engaged in positive behaviors. Hence, previous performance is likely to influence response to adaptive selling scales.
The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the extent to which past performance influences student self-ratings on the RMML ADAPTS scale. The research consists of a qualitative study and an experiment. In the qualitative study, students discuss their interpretation of several items used in the RMML ADAPTS scale. The findings show that students have an inconsistent understanding of the items. In the experiment, students participated in a sales simulation. Their performance was randomly predetermined to be high or low regardless of their choices in the sales simulation. Then RMML ADAPTS and other related behaviors were measured. The findings show that the manipulated performance condition is a stronger predictor of RMML ADAPTS ratings than the actual adaptive behaviors observed in the simulation. Consequently, sales researchers should not use the RMML ADAPTS rating scale with student samples.