How and When Does Emotional Intelligence Influence Salesperson Adaptive and Proactive Performance?

AuthorBelén Bande, Pilar Fernández‐Ferrín
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/emre.12062
Publication Date01 Dec 2015
How and When Does Emotional Intelligence
Influence Salesperson Adaptive and
Proactive Performance?
Belén Bande1,Pilar Fernández-Ferrín2
1Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (UNIR)/ Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Logroño (La Rioja), Spain
2University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain
Salesperson adaptivity and proactivity are two emergent forms of sales performance that are particularly
important when work requirements cannot be clearly anticipated and employees need to address complex situa-
tions. This study attempts to contribute to the existing literature by exploring the underlying mechanism that links
emotional intelligence (EI), an ability that is considered fundamental in customer interactions, to adaptive and
proactive performance. A dyadic sample of industrial salespeople and their immediate supervisors reveals that EI
has a positive influence on salesperson adaptivity and proactivity through its effect on their perceived self-efficacy
and intrinsic motivation. Additionally, the indirect effect of self-efficacy on adaptive and proactive sales perfor-
mance is found to depend on a salesperson’s perceived organizational support and ability to bounce back. Certain
implications of this study, as well as suggestions for future research, are also addressed.
Keywords: emotional intelligence; intrinsic motivation; adaptivity, proactivity; resilience; perceived
organizational support
Introduction
Understanding the factors that improve sales perfor-
mance and how they vary across different contexts is
essential for both managers and researchers in the field
of sales and marketing (Verbeke, Dietz and Verwaal,
2011). Organizations are becoming more decentralized,
changes are occurring more rapidly, and operational
uncertainty is greater than ever. In this respect, enter-
prises need employees who are adaptable, use their ini-
tiative, and are therefore able to address complex
situations (Baba et al., 2009; Griffin et al., 2007). In
response to the demands of this new scenario, research-
ers are attempting to identify behaviours that not only
contribute to individual task performance but also
enhance the effectiveness of groups and organizations
over time (Griffin et al., 2010). This study focuses on
salesperson adaptivity and proactivity as two emergent
forms of sales performance that are particularly
important in today’s world, which is characterized by
more complex market dynamics and more interdepend-
ent and uncertain work systems (Bindl and Parker, 2010;
Howard, 1995; Pulakos et al., 2002).
Emotional intelligence (EI), conceptualized as the
ability to acquire and apply knowledge from one’s own
emotions as well as those of others to produce beneficial
outcomes (Kidwell et al., 2011), has been identified as
particularly important in jobs that require employees to
interact with customers, such as sales positions
(O’Boyle et al., 2010). EI is considered to be a skill
possessed by successful leaders of organizations and has
been identified as an important predictor of work-related
outcomes (O’Boyle et al., 2010).
While earlier research has shown that employees with
greater EI levels perform better at work (e.g., Kidwell et
al., 2011; O’Boyle et al., 2010), little is known about the
influence of EI on adaptive and proactive sales behav-
iours or about how the EI of employees (salespeople in
particular) can lead to better outcomes. Moreover, recent
studies have highlighted the importance of considering
the context in relation to how useful EI might be in
different situations (Jordan et al., 2010; O’Boyle et al.,
2010).
Correspondence: Belén Bande, Universidad Internacional de la Rioja
(UNIR)/ Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Gran Vía Rey Juan
Carlos I, 41, 26002, Logroño (La Rioja), Spain. Tel: +34- 941210211
E-mail: belen.bande@unir.net
European Management Review, Vol. 12, 261–274 (2015)
DOI: 10.1111/emre.12062
© 2015 European Academy of Management

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