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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : International Journal of Research in Marketing, Volume 27, Issue 3, September 2010, Pages 213–224
We investigate the linear and interactive influences of leader-empowering behaviors, team experience, and the degree of virtuality on team planning processes and performance among virtual sales teams. Collecting data across three separate time periods with 218 pharmaceutical sales teams, our results indicate that empowering leadership improves team planning processes and is moderated by the team's experience. Interestingly, it seems that, as teams gain more experience, they are less likely to engage in effective planning; however, these effects are attenuated as the team becomes more virtual in nature. Our findings have relevance for sales managers and salespeople in terms of leveraging team processes to influence performance as well as in terms of presenting the issues associated with virtual means of interaction.
Few would argue that the nature of work in today's sales-based organizations is changing. Many sales organizations have responded to the escalating complexity, dynamism, and competition characterizing today's marketplace by implementing team-based selling structures (Deeter-Schmelz & Ramsey, 1995). The reasons underlying the shift to team-based selling are based on a belief that sales teams aid the formation of buyer–supplier relationships (Moon & Armstrong, 1994). Deeter-Schmelz and Ramsey, for example, point out that “One of the reasons for using teams over individuals is to facilitate an integration of information that results in more informed decisions and a more coordinated effort that can improve performance, including responses to customers” (1995, p. 409). Advances in information and communication technology represent a related trend that is exerting a strong influence on sales-based organizations. Technology-based tools such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications have enabled sales representatives to leverage immense databases containing information about customer buying patterns, product sales patterns, competitors' products, and so forth to better focus and customize selling efforts (Ahearne et al., 2007 and Jones et al., 2005). More recently still, CRM tools have given sales representatives the ability to share customer information and selling strategies as well as to balance workloads and facilitate cross-selling efforts with one another from a distance, or “virtually”. In this way, technology has prompted the advent of virtual sales teams, and, thus, it has allowed sales representatives to work in a way that was not possible before. Virtual sales teams offer flexibility, responsiveness, and a variety of benefits (for a review, see Martins, Gilson, & Maynard, 2004) that sales-based organizations increasingly seek to leverage. Recently, Hackman (2002, p. 131) observed that virtual teams are especially prevalent in knowledge-work where “front-line activities…keep individual team members on the road much of the time, such as sales and service work [emphasis added]”. Despite becoming increasingly prevalent, virtual sales teams are not well researched. This is a cause for concern when one considers that the element of virtuality introduces a host of new challenges for sales managers charged with leading virtual sales teams. Existing research, for instance, has yet to examine how virtuality relates to sales teams' processes and effectiveness. The roles that external leadership and team experience play in the process are also not fully understood. This study addresses these questions and adds to our understanding of how best to manage virtual sales teams. We make several contributions to the literature. First, we advance a theory of how sales team leaders (i.e., empowering behaviors) and team composition (i.e., team experience) influence a team's processes (i.e., the behaviors that enable teams to orchestrate taskwork activities for goal accomplishment; see Marks, Mathieu, & Zacarro, 2001) and, thereby, the effectiveness of virtual sales teams. We consider those relationships as the core, more established features, of this research. Next, we examine the interaction of those two variables to gain insight into the complex interplay of factors influencing the effectiveness of virtual sales teams. Finally, we recognize that all virtual teams are not created equal; rather, they fall along a virtuality continuum, with some teams relying more heavily on virtual tools (i.e., any technology tool other than face-to-face interaction) to work and communicate (Cohen & Gibson, 2003 and Griffith et al., 2003). We examine how the degree of virtuality characterizing a virtual sales team combines with the two antecedent factors to influence virtual sales team processes. Because these interactive relationships can be explained in several ways, we believe that our exploration to uncover their relative effects within this research provides insight into a budding research stream. Our findings have important and surprising implications for managers in terms of the effects that virtuality and sales team composition (i.e., team experience) have on team processes. Fig. 1 summarizes our hypothesized relationships, which we test in a sample of virtual pharmaceutical sales teams. 1.1. Virtual sales teams Moon and Armstrong (1994, p. 21) described sales teams as “consist[ing] of selling organization members assigned to a particular customer who are actively involved in the development or implementation of the sales strategy for that customer”. Using the work team criteria established by Kozlowski and Bell (2003), the virtual sales teams examined in this research (a) exist to service and sell to the customer, (b) have performance goals that hinge on team-level performance, (c) interact socially, (d) coordinate and plan among members to call on customers, (e) operate with certain expectations and boundaries regarding the task (i.e., providing information, closing, etc.), and (f) operate within an organizational context that establishes team territories and quotas and provides the technology for communication amongst team members. Given their increasing prevalence, there is a growing body of research on sales teams. In the marketing literature, the research consists primarily of anecdotal reports (e.g., Blessington, 1989 and Cespedes et al., 1989), descriptions of team selling contexts and characteristics (e.g., Arnettt & Badrinarayanan, 2005, Deeter-Schmelz & Ramsey, 1995, Jackson et al., 1999 and Perry et al., 1999), and conceptual frameworks of sales team effectiveness (e.g., Dixon et al., 2003, Jones et al., 2005, Moon & Armstrong, 1994, Moon & Gupta, 1997, Smith & Barclay, 1990 and Cespedes, 1992). While largely limited to conceptual frameworks that describe sales teams or propose factors that may influence their effectiveness, marketing research has clearly identified team-based selling as an important trend in personal and professional selling. The majority of empirical work on sales teams derives from the management literature. With an early example of sales team research, Gladstein (1984) tested a comprehensive I–P–O model (i.e., Input–Process–Output) and found that active leadership, communication, supportiveness, and company tenure were associated with team ratings of satisfaction and performance but not with an objective measure of performance (i.e., sales revenue). Strutton and Pelton (1998) found that ingratiatory behavior influenced relationship quality among sales team members. Workman, Homburg, and Jensen (2003) empirically examined factors (e.g., activities and resources) influencing key account management team effectiveness. Jackson and Joshi (2004) examined team composition, finding that combinations of diversity (i.e., gender, tenure, and ethic) were negatively associated with sales team performance. They later examined pay inequalities in sales teams (Joshi, Liao, & Jackson, 2006). Haas and Hansen (2005) explored how different knowledge types affect task performance in consulting sales teams. Mehra and colleagues examined leaders' network centrality (Mehra, Dixon, Brass, & Robertson, 2006) and decentralized leadership structures (Mehra, Smith, Dixon, & Robertson, 2006) as related to sales team performance. Stock (2006) focused on interorganizational teams comprising members from both the buying and selling companies. While much remains to be learned about sales teams, researchers have clearly identified team selling as an important trend (Moon & Armstrong, 1994). It is surprising to note, however, that very little research has examined virtual sales teams. In addition to the numerous practitioner accounts of virtual sales teams (e.g., Beishon, 2006 and Hennings, 2000), we located only one empirical study of virtual teams that used a sample of thirty-five sales and service teams (Kirkman, Rosen, Tesluk, & Gibson, 2004). 1.2. Team processes and team outcomes Much of the sales teams research subscribes to the I–P–O model (Hackman 1987), which depicts inputs (e.g., member characteristics) as leading to processes, which, in turn, drive team outcomes. Many classifications of team processes exist (e.g., Fleishman & Zaccaro, 1992 and Prince & Salas, 1993); however, we use the Marks et al. (2001) taxonomy, which delineates three categories of team processes: planning (i.e., what Marks et al. referred to as transition), action, and interpersonal. Importantly, the focus within this research is on the team processes that enable the team to orchestrate taskwork activities for team effectiveness. Because “…virtual teams tend to have more of a task-focus and less of a social-focus than traditional teams” (Powell, Piccoli, & Ives, 2004, p. 10), we limit our focus to the first two, task-related categories of team processes. 1.3. Relationship between planning and action processes Planning processes refer to team interactions that focus on evaluation and/or planning activities to guide team task accomplishment. These include mission analysis, goal specification, and strategy formulation. Action processes reflect four types of activities that occur as the team works toward the accomplishment of its goals and objectives. These include monitoring progress toward goals, systems monitoring, team backup, and coordination. Marks et al. (2001) maintain that planning and action phase processes have a natural temporal rhythm and relationship to one another, with planning processes preceding action processes. Supporting their contention, the goal-setting literature maintains that developing a shared vision, team goals, and objectives is an important way to improve cooperation among team members. Goals direct the attention, effort, and persistence of team members (Locke & Latham, 1990). Moreover, shared team goals improve the development of cooperative strategies and facilitate team performance (Weingart & Weldon, 1991). Thus, goal-setting can facilitate coordination by guiding members toward the same goal. Similarly, teams that develop and assign goals in their planning phases will be more cognizant of members' achievements relative to goals, and they will be able to provide backup behaviors if necessary to get their performance levels on track. Additionally, teams that engage in strategy formulation should experience a greater sense of ownership and responsibility with respect to the team's goals. In turn, this should give rise to both effective monitoring of team members and more effective backup behaviors when problems should arise. Hence, we hypothesized: Hypothesis 1. Planning processes will have a significant, positive effect on the execution of subsequent action processes. 1.4. Team outcomes Hackman (1987) proposed that a comprehensive assessment of success in ongoing work teams must capture both current effectiveness (i.e., team performance) and future effectiveness (i.e., capability/desire to continue working together). In line with those recommendations, we examine sales team performance and team commitment as two outcomes in this research. 1.4.1. Team performance There are many examples of research demonstrating that action processes positively influence team performance. For instance, Weldon, Jehn, and Pradham (1991) found that performance monitoring positively influenced team performance, presumably because it gave members the opportunity to increase their efforts or adjust plans if it appeared that team goals would not be met. Similarly, research on team backup behaviors (Porter et al., 2003) and similar concepts including cooperation, workload sharing, and organizational citizenship behavior (e.g., Hyatt & Ruddy, 1997 and Jehn & Shah, 1997) provide evidence that backing up behavior has positive effects on performance. Recent meta-analytic results depict action processes as relating positively to team performance (LePine et al., 2008). We also expect that action processes will facilitate team performance. Thus, we hypothesized: Hypothesis 2. Action processes will have a significant, positive effect on subsequent sales team performance. 1.4.2. Team commitment Team commitment refers to “the relative strength of an individual's identification with, and involvement in, a particular team” (Bishop & Scott, 2000, p. 439). A central element of teamwork is a shared commitment to the team itself (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). Research has linked team processes such as backing up behavior (Bishop & Scott, 1997), communication, and coordination (Campion, Papper, & Mesdsker, 1996) to feeling satisfied with ones' teammates. LePine, Piccolo, Jackson, Mathieu, and Saul's (2008) meta-analysis confirmed that action processes related positively to team satisfaction. Based on these findings, the logic that effective task-related interactions should foster affective commitment to the team, and that team commitment positively affects team performance (Bishop & Scott, 1997), we hypothesized: Hypothesis 3. Action processes will have a significant, positive effect on virtual sales team commitment. Hypothesis 4. Team commitment will have a significant, positive effect on subsequent team performance. 1.5. Antecedent factors While the relationship between team processes and performance represents a linchpin in team I–P–O models, our central interest lies in the antecedent factors that contribute to effective team processes in virtual sales teams. As team leadership and team composition have been shown to be important to team success, we focus on two key variables that have been shown to be particularly relevant in the sales context: (1) empowering leadership and (2) team experience. 1.5.1. Team leadership Researchers have recently highlighted empowering leadership as an important issue for selling team performance (e.g., Arnettt & Badrinarayanan, 2005). For example, Perry et al. (1999) comment on the “criticality of leadership and empowerment in the sales team context” and argue that many “…potential benefits exist with sales teams that can manage themselves via empowerment” (p. 35). However, Bell and Kozlowski (2002, p. 15) noted, “There is little current theory to guide research on the leadership and management of virtual teams.” While teams may be led in a variety of different ways, our focus here is on the role of the formal external leader in team processes and effectiveness. Bell and Kozlowski (2002, p. 26) argued that “… the need for virtual team leaders to monitor or develop team members may not be as crucial [as traditional settings]…. It is important for virtual team leaders to distribute aspects of these functions to the team itself, in effect; making it more of a self-managing team….Leaders need to implement a system in which team members will be able to regulate their own performance as a team.” One way leaders can accomplish this is to cultivate a sense of autonomy or empowerment among team members. Empowering leadership has been recognized as important for team performance (Manz & Sims, 1987) as well as for a number of team processes including knowledge sharing (Srivastava, Bartol, & Locke, 2006) and various self-management skills (Druskat & Wheeler, 2003). Leader-empowering behaviors encourage teams to take on greater authority and responsibility for their work than in more traditional teams. This includes taking initiative for handling activities such as assessing environmental conditions and available team resources, developing effective sales strategies, and identifying and prioritizing sales and related goals. Thus, we anticipate that: Hypothesis 5. Leader-empowering behaviors will have a significant, positive effect on planning processes. 1.5.2. Team experience Team composition has been shown to have important implications for both team processes and effectiveness in a variety of contexts (Ilgen, Hollenbeck, Johnson, & Jundt, 2005), including sales (Park & Holloway, 2003). While team experience can be conceptualized along many dimensions, including organizational tenure (e.g., Finkelstein & Hambrick, 1990) and experience in teams in general (Rentsch & Klimoski, 2001), we focus on the time that team members have spent in the team itself. In general, the evidence suggests that team experience encourages more effective team processes. Janz, Colquitt, and Noe (1997), for instance, found that team processes were more positive when teams had been established for longer periods. Likewise, Hollenbeck, Ilgen, LePine, Colquitt, and Hedlund (1998) found that team experience allows members to deal with information more competently. To the extent that members possess relevant experience and a history of working together, they are better able to leverage their collective knowledge and abilities (cf. Reagans, Argote, & Brooks, 2005). Time spent in a particular team allows members to accumulate customer-related insights (i.e., customer needs/preferences) that expand a team's capacity for effective planning because members are likely to have similar understandings of tasks, goals, and environmental conditions. Thus, shared team experiences should encourage teams to engage in planning processes such as evaluating team goals, planning and allocating resources, specifying the tasks required for goal accomplishment, and formulating a strategy to achieve the goals. Team experience also allows members to develop knowledge about one another, such as member personalities, abilities, and behavioral tendencies. This knowledge enables teams to efficiently allocate resources, assign roles, and anticipate the actions of team members (Holmes & Rempel, 1989 and Kelley & Thibaut, 1978; Wegner, 1995). For these reasons, we argue that: Hypothesis 6. Team experience will have a significant, positive effect on planning processes. Hypothesis 7. Team experience will have a significant, positive effect on subsequent team performance. 1.6. Interactive effects 1.6.1. Degree of virtuality Kirkman and Mathieu (2005, p. 702) defined virtuality as “the extent to which team members utilize virtual tools to coordinate and execute team processes while taking into consideration the amount of informational value provided by such communication tools.” Thus, teams can be characterized on a virtuality continuum, in which some teams rely exclusively on virtual tools for their interaction and many others use a mix of face-to-face and virtual interactions. For sales teams, using technology for communication is important because of their boundary-spanning nature (LeBon & Merunka, 2006). Therefore, virtual tools actually enable dispersed sales representatives to work as a team more so than they ever could without such tools. However, a paradox of sorts emerges because virtuality may both challenge and benefit a sales team's functioning (Kirkman & Mathieu, 2005). On one hand, virtual tools enable sales team members to coordinate actions that they would not be able to accomplish otherwise. On the other hand, interacting through virtual means loses much of the richness of direct team interaction, which may detract from the effectiveness of team processes (Kirkman & Mathieu, 2005 and Martins et al., 2004). All else being equal, research has generally shown that teams function more effectively when their interactions occur face-to-face than virtually (Baltes et al., 2002 and Gibson & Cohen, 2003). However, because teams rely on virtual tools to varying degrees, we consider how the degree of virtuality characterizing a team interacts with leader-empowering behaviors and team experience to influence the team's processes. First, we address the interaction of leader-empowering behaviors and a team's degree of virtuality. There is evidence to suggest that the influence of leader-empowering behaviors on sales team processes may depend on the degree of virtuality characterizing the team. For instance, while a number of researchers have found that team empowerment relates positively to team performance (e.g., Kirkman & Rosen, 1997), Kirkman et al. (2004) found that virtuality moderated the effects of empowerment on team process improvement such that the relationship was stronger with higher degrees of virtuality. They argue that “… teams with few opportunities to meet face-to-face are highly vulnerable to process losses and performance problems” (Gibson & Cohen, 2003) and continue to say that “[O]ne factor that might offset performance problems is team empowerment.” However, when considering the nature of the selling task, we believe that these empowering behaviors may enhance planning processes but that, as the degree of virtuality increases, the effect of this empowerment will be reduced for different reasons. Because salespeople often act as lone-wolves or as autonomous units under situations of high empowerment and little face-to-face interaction, the team members may be quick to undertake and complete a task but engage in little planning prior to doing so. This argument is in alignment with the positive effect uncovered in the work of Kirkman et al. (2004) when considering reduction in implementation cycle time, but it may demonstrate a negative relationship with planning processes, as presented in this research. Also, as teams may find themselves more intrinsically motivated via empowerment to engage in planning processes to achieve success, increasing virtuality may impede this effect. Researchers have argued that developing a shared vision or mission may be more difficult for virtual teams because it is often more difficult for members to establish a unified sense of purpose due to diminished member interactions (Blackburn, Furst, & Rosen, 2003). Kayworth and Leidner (2000: p. 186) also found that difficulties in planning and coordination were barriers to successful virtual team performance. The extant literature offers several reasons why this would be the case, including the fact that virtual media conveys “lean” information and lacks the “richness” available in face-to-face interactions. Moreover, many studies have found that the overall amount of communication declines as teams become more virtual (Martins et al., 2004). For these reasons, we hypothesize that: Hypothesis 8. The degree of virtuality moderates the relationship between leader-empowering behaviors and sales team processes, such that higher degrees of virtuality will dampen the positive effect of empowering behaviors on team planning processes. Second, we address the interaction of team experience and the degree of virtuality characterizing a team in relation to team planning processes. Specifically, we anticipate that the degree of virtuality characterizing a team will detract from a more experienced sales team's propensity to engage in team planning processes. Teams that have worked together for longer periods of time are likely to have accumulated a greater level of territory-specific tacit knowledge (Polanyi, 1967) covering customer, product and service, competitor, and market domains that can be used as teams specify goals, formulate strategies, and assess the tasks, environmental conditions, and available resources needed to accomplish a team's task. However, because this tacit knowledge is difficult to codify and articulate, it generally requires extensive personal interaction to share (Polyani, 1967). Because virtual communication is typically impoverished as compared with face-to-face interactions and tacit knowledge is particularly difficult to transfer through virtual means of communication, we believe that virtual means of communication will reduce planning among experienced teams. Considering that these planning processes consist of complex knowledge structures (i.e., strategy formulation, environmental scanning, etc.), we propose that, as teams become more virtual, they will rely more on past experiences residing within the team than on planning for future interactions partly because of the complications and frustrations of communicating difficult topics through virtual means. Therefore, we hypothesized: Hypothesis 9. The degree of virtuality moderates the relationship between team experience and planning processes, such that higher degrees of virtuality will dampen the positive effect of team experience on team planning processes. Finally, we anticipate that team experience and leader-empowering behaviors will interact to influence team planning processes. In general, empowered teams are more likely to exhibit effective processes as compared with their less autonomous counterparts (Campion et al., 1996, Hyatt & Ruddy, 1997, Kirkman et al., 2004 and Srivastava et al., 2006). Kozlowski, Gully, McHugh, et al., 1996 and Kozlowski, Gully, Salas & Cannon-Bowers, 1996b proposed that different leader behaviors are effective as teams progress through various phases of development. In other words, the effectiveness of any given leader behavior depends on the team's needs and capabilities at any particular time. In addition, Kozlowski et al. (1996b) argued that when leading expert teams, leaders can still affect and facilitate their performance by engaging in a variety of activities such as encouraging reevaluation of the situation, ensuring that members get needed assistance, helping the team to learn from its experiences, and assisting the team in environmental scanning and interpretation functions. When virtual sales teams gain experience working together as a unit, members have the opportunity to develop the knowledge and capabilities required for effective self-management. In short, they reach a stage at which the team is ready to take on the added responsibilities of self-management should their leader engage in empowering behaviors. Therefore, Hypothesis 10. Team experience moderates the relationship between leader-empowering behaviors and planning processes. Specifically, leader-empowering behaviors are more strongly related to planning processes in sales teams with high levels of team experience, relative to those with lower levels of team experience.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Virtual sales teams are complex dynamic systems that operate in the larger contexts of people, technologies, and organizational factors (Martins et al., 2004 and Ilgen et al., 2005). We believe that our study contributes to the understanding of these systems as, to our knowledge, this is the first simultaneous empirical examination of the influence of these antecedents and their interactive effects on team processes and effectiveness in virtual sales teams. Our study also reveals several important findings. First, we illustrated that virtual sales teams vary in their processes and effectiveness and that leader-empowering behaviors can have a positive influence on these processes. In contrast, and opposite our hypothesis, team experience exhibited a negative effect on team planning processes among virtual sales teams. Team experience did not evidence a significant linear relationship with team performance. Consistent with previous research on traditional, face-to-face teams (Kirkman & Rosen, 1999 and Mathieu et al., 2008), we found that highly empowered sales teams exhibit more effective team planning processes as compared to less empowered sales teams. Second, we examined more complex combinations of antecedent influences on virtual sales team processes, and we unearthed a pair of interactions with important implications. The interaction between leader-empowering behaviors and team experience suggested that teams with a longer history of working together benefit more from managers who empower their employees than with less experience working together. Surprisingly, the degree of virtuality interacted to attenuate the negative effect that team experience exhibited with team planning processes. Our study also illustrated that team processes have important consequences for the effectiveness of sales teams. We found that teams who engaged in effective team processes yielded significant gains in overall team performance and team commitment (most likely due to enhanced planning and targeting activities) as well as better coordination of activities and interpersonal relations. 4.1. Theoretical implications The use of virtual sales teams is increasing in organizations, and this research is one of the first that we know of to examine the relationships among their composition, leader-empowering behaviors, and degree of virtuality. One finding which makes our results more interesting is that team experience had a negative rather than positive relationship with team planning processes. A potential explanation for this result derives from the literature on shared mental models (SMM). The SMM literature maintains that shared understandings of the task and teammates allow team members to anticipate one another's actions (Mathieu et al., 2000). Because of this, SMMs can prompt teams to engage in implicit rather than explicit coordination and communication (Espinosa, Lerch, & Kraut, 2004). Because SMMs take time to develop as members gain experience working with one another, it is possible that teams who have worked together for longer periods of time may rely on their past experience with the task and team rather than engage in extensive planning activities. Thus, future research that adopts a SMM perspective would be valuable. A related and no less interesting finding concerns the interaction of team experience and virtuality. The results of our study indicate that the degree of virtuality characterizing a team lessened the negative effect of team experience on team planning processes. We believe that our findings stem from the idea that members recognize that all members must do their part if the sales team is to reach its goals and objectives. Thus, teams that rely more heavily on virtual communications may make a concerted effort to engage in effective planning processes to ensure that all plans are in place to allow the team to reach its sales goals. This may be a function of the nature of the job, as sales representatives are largely believed to be highly self-motivated. It may also be a function of the fact that more virtual teams have fewer impromptu opportunities to check on the progress of teammates as they meet “at the water cooler” in the office and, thus, make conscious efforts to plan with teammates. Nonetheless, it is an interesting finding that could be explored further. Our findings also suggest that the decision regarding how much to empower virtual sales teams hinges on the level of experience characterizing a team. Leader-empowering behaviors appear to be more beneficial for sales teams that have more experience working together. Kozlowski and colleagues (1996a) advanced a similar argument and suggested that different leadership styles are most effective at different stages of a team's development. Finally, a notable theoretical implication is that engaging in team planning processes leads to higher levels of action processes in virtual sales team performance and, thus, ultimately, to higher levels of team performance and team commitment. While the focal point of our research was on the combinations of antecedents of team processes, we believe that it was also critical to demonstrate that those processes related significantly to subsequent virtual sales team effectiveness. 4.2. Managerial implications For better or worse, contemporary sales teams are adopting virtual technologies to manage their workloads and to coordinate activities. Such teaming would not have been possible, or at a minimum would have been unwieldy, before the advent of digital forms of interaction. Most executives predict that technology-mediated communication and virtual teaming will increasingly replace face-to-face interactions (Kirkman, Rosen, Gibson, Tesluk, & McPherson, 2002). Consequently, the managers of sales teams should recognize that these teams vary in the degree to which they use virtual tools to interact, plan, and coordinate. Moreover, in environments such as sales, linking members through virtual means is critical. Below, we discuss specific manager-relevant implications arising from this research. First, empowerment may be a leadership style that is effective in surmounting some of the compositional issues that challenge team process development. Based on our findings, it appears that managers should consider providing teams with autonomy and exhibit confidence in their decision making ability when working with experienced sales teams. More specifically, it seems that more experienced teams reap the benefit most from being empowered. Therefore we suggest that managers empower those teams to a greater level while keeping a close eye on performance metrics to ensure that these teams do not stray too far from the performance path. Second, sales managers and team members should consider team composition and its impact on process and performance, making staffing replacements or adjustments as needed. For example, our findings suggest that when leading sales teams, managers might consider that teams having spent more time together appear to engage in less developmental processes. Thus, it is important that managers emphasize the importance of planning processes in teams who have spent more time working together if those teams are to attain higher levels of team performance. Because of the significant performance-related gains associated with effective team processes, training members in team processes appears to be a valuable investment. This result, combined with a long history of research confirming that effective team processes benefit both quantitative and subjective performance outcomes, suggests that investments in educating team members on how to strategize and set goals, monitor progress toward these goals, and coordinate activities pays off with dividends in the form of team performance. Based on our findings, the direct effect of these processes and the other predictors explained approximately 13% of the variance in sales team performance. In our study's setting, this percentage translates into roughly $200 million in sales. Most managers would agree that the ability to reap these types of rewards would be well worth the investment. However, important questions arise regarding what a manager can do to ensure that teams are engaging in these team processes. Practitioners are familiar with the steadfast concepts of coaching, mentoring, training, and motivating; but what new behaviors can a manager engage in to change the behaviors of the team and team members? We believe that by subscribing to Thompson's (2004) “building the team” framework, team leaders and managers can better align tasks with people and then begin to develop appropriate team member relationships. Thompson's framework focuses on team member socialization, role negotiation, norm establishment, and the development of cohesion and trust as critical upfront (i.e., at team formation) team-building activities intended to facilitate a collaborative form of cooperation. As team-building activities are one of the most commonly applied group development interventions in organizations today, activities that promote goal-setting, environmental scanning, and systems monitoring can be incredibly useful in enhancing team effectiveness (Klein et al., 2009). Fourth, it is apparent that a team's level of commitment has a significant impact on its performance. Our findings indicated that the team's experience working together influences this relationship; consequently, companies and sales managers should use care when adding or replacing team members. Firms that have adopted frequent territory realignment strategies, which often realign team membership, should reconsider this strategy and determine whether these realignments are having the anticipated performance effects. Finally, regarding the team's experience, our results indicate that teams with more experience together appear to be somewhat resistant to planning processes. Based on the negative impact of team experience on planning processes, we speculate that more experienced teams prefer to skip the planning processes and engage directly in work-related activities. Sales managers should pay careful attention to the behaviors of experienced salespeople when working as part of a sales team and consider implementing behavior-based controls to ensure effective team planning. Also, to this point, our interactive findings suggest that when dealing with experienced teams, providing tools that enable them to communicate virtually may help reduce these negative effects to planning. It appears that teams which operate virtually and have higher levels of experience realize that they must be proactive and plan for success, while those that operate face-to-face embrace more of a reactive strategy and engage in less planning as they begin to rely more on the team's experience and the ability to communicate face-to-face as a substitute for planning. That being said, many sales force automation or CRM technology applications may hold additional value if they include communication tools for sales team members. Sales team managers should also ensure that those more experienced teams that operate less virtually are engaging in regular planning meetings and activities. 4.3. Limitations and further research Although our study design offered many advantages, we would be remiss if we failed to note some limitations. For example, although we collected data over time and from multiple sources, this does not unequivocally establish causal precedence or eliminate the possible influence of feedback mechanisms. A truly longitudinal design that assessed all substantive variables over time would strengthen any causal inferences. In addition, the choice of substantive variables in this work is not exhaustive, and there may be other important predictors. Future research would be enhanced if it expanded the number and types of variables that were included (e.g., contextual antecedents or team emergent states as mediators). Finally, we sampled only one type of team setting, which may limit the scope of the generalizability of our findings. The data we used were from multiple sources and, thus, minimize many of the potential biases inherent in single-source studies. Nevertheless, we asked individuals to rate their leader's empowering behavior, which introduces a concern that members with little experience or contact with their manager may not know how empowering the person actually is. Similarly, individuals with more experience and/or those who have developed leadership substitutes may not fully realize when a manager is empowering them. Additionally, because the perceptions of leader-empowering behaviors, virtuality, and team processes all came from team members, any potential “same-source method bias” may have inflated the magnitudes of the observed linear effects (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). However, because our primary hypotheses focused on interactive effects, we used both a time-lagged design (DeSarbo et al., 2002) and archival performance data; our findings are not overly susceptible to method effects. Finally, we should note that we had incomplete responses for all teams. Team response rates have been shown to undermine the validity of team composition–outcome relationships (see Allen, Stanley, Williams & Ross, 2007). However, because our focus was primarily on what are known as referent shift constructs (e.g., leader behaviors, team processes, etc., see Chan, 1998 and Chen et al., 2004) and members exhibited high agreement, randomly missing data should have relatively little influence on the observed relationships. The findings involving team experience, however, may have been attenuated and should be interpreted cautiously. Our study adds to the literature on both the leadership of virtual sales teams as well as the influence of team composition on team processes and sales team performance. It also suggests several promising avenues for further research. First, there are several other potential antecedents and outcomes of sales team processes that warrant additional research. These include team composition (e.g., personality), team design (e.g., interdependence), and contextual factors. Second, future research should expand the criteria domain beyond outcome-based measures of virtual sales team performance and commitment to include factors such as customer satisfaction, team viability, and so forth. Third, it would be interesting to investigate whether engaging in team processes enables individuals to become more efficient. Fourth, different operationalizations of variables (i.e., measures of experience and virtuality) may yield richer conceptualizations and lend further insights to these relationships. For example, researchers could both examine a broader conceptualization of experience (i.e., experience in the job, company, etc.) and collect information about the use of a variety of virtual media (e.g., e-mail, video conferencing, wikis, etc.) to better understand the nature of virtuality influences. It would also be interesting to investigate the level of ‘teamness’ within a team. Specifically, are sales teams truly teams — or merely a group of individuals or ‘lone-wolves’ grouped together? Similarly, it would be interesting to capture and assess the impact of the diversity within each sales team which could be measured using any dispersion measure, such as concentration indices. Finally, additional research that tests the relationships contained within our hypothesized framework on the virtual sales teams working in contexts other than the pharmaceutical setting would be a meaningful pursuit.