When do we need higher educated salespeople? The role of work experience

Cong Feng, Scott Fay, Kexin Xiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Practitioners are currently engaged in a debate over the impact of salespersons’ education and experience on sales outcomes. This study provides empirical evidence that contributes to this discussion by examining whether and how higher education background and work experience are associated with salesperson on-the-job capability, sales performance, and salespeople turnover. Using a sample that consists of 282 salespeople from the Chinese life insurance industry, we obtain several interesting findings. While college graduates tend to have lower on-the-job capability and poorer performance than non-college graduates, their capability and sales performance improve more rapidly with job tenure. Interestingly, college graduates are less likely to quit during the initial stage of their tenure, after which their turnover likelihood increases sharply. In general, work experience (job tenure and prior experience with another employer) is significantly associated with capability and performance enhancement. However, job tenure and prior experience are substitutes for each other in the production of sales. Furthermore, long-tenured salespeople with extensive prior experience are less likely to quit. The results also show that salespeople with a college degree have lower customer attrition. Overall, this study has important implications for sales force recruitment and management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1391-1429
Number of pages39
JournalReview of Managerial Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Education
  • M31
  • On-the-job capability
  • Sales performance
  • Tenure
  • Turnover
  • Work experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting


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