Joe Salatino, President of Great Northern Case Study

The business climate of the modern day society is faced with a wide array of challenges, such as the strengthening forces of globalization and market liberalization, intensifying competition, increasing customer demands or increasing pressures from the stakeholders. In such a setting, the economic agents seek to develop and implement new strategies by which to create competitive advantages and respond to the emergent challenges.

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Some examples as to how firms deal with these tests include the employment of more complex human resource strategies, the integration of technologic innovation in operational processes or the construction of a stronger relationship with the customers. At the Great Northern American, more emphasis is being placed on the employment and retention of skilled sales staffs, as a source of revenue generation, and implicitly, organizational profitability. In this context, the current project sets out to assess the situation at the Great Northern American through various lenses, such as the need for the staff to understand people’s perception and attribution mechanisms, learning theories and learning theory implementation, or self-efficacy for employee hiring.

2. The situation

Great Northern American is a retailer operating at a domestic level alone, and selling items such as office supplies, arts-and-crafts, promotional materials or computer supplies. Given the nature of the business, the company places a central role on its sales staffs, which are directly in charge of generating company revenues and, subsequently, profits. In fact, the very success of the organization is assessed based on the wages received by the sales staffs. This assessment is based on the belief that successful sales staffs generate sales volumes, and should therefore be highly remunerated and motivated in order to further enhance their performances.

The sales personnel at the Great Northern American often earns more than $60,000 per annum, with some staffs making as much as $100,000. An assessment of the behavior patterns of the sales staffs has revealed that the employees who develop closer relationships with their customers tend to sell more; they for instance purchase papers in the regions of the customers, so that they can engage in targeted conversations.

Ultimately, the executive leadership at the Great Northern American understands the new needs of an evolving economy, especially given the trends in the services sector. Here, the success of the company depends on the skills of the staffs, their motivation, their performances, their commitments, ability to develop strong customer relationships and so on (Kusluvan, 2003). Based on this understanding, the company seeks to employ and retain those staffs which have the ability to become integrated in the organizational culture and help the company attain its overall objectives.

“When hiring telemarketing individuals, he [Joe Salatino] looks for individuals who have excellent communication skills (especially listening), are respectful of customers’ point-of-view, have an upbeat attitude, and are highly self-motivated. […] Finally, Salatino looks for people who recognize their own strengths and limitations and who thrive on taking the initiative without being told what to do all the time” (case).

3. Perceptions and attributions

Aside from the importance placed by the company on the sales staffs, the employees must also understand the major role they play in the ultimate success of the company. In such a setting then, they have to continually improve their sales skills, using both traditional methods, as well as less traditional approaches. A relevant example in this sense is represented by the need for the staff members to understand the importance of the mechanisms employed by customers in the formation of perceptions and attributions.

More specifically, the employees have to use these mechanisms in order to relate and bond with the customers, in a final effort to create solid relationships with them. In this endeavor, the staff members at the Great Northern American seek to relate to the customers at a more personal level. For instance, the company serves the entire country and retails its products to over 60,000 businesses. In order to best relate to them, the company’s sales staff takes an extra step and focuses on non-sales related aspects, such as entering conversations on topics of interest for the customers. To identify these topics, the employees will buy newspapers from the local media and seek for topics of interest to the customers in the respective areas.

“To establish loyal customers, many top-selling salespeople subscribe to their customers’ hometown newspaper so that they can chat with the customer about local issues, such as who had a baby and who won the local football game” (case).

Ultimately then, it is essential for the sales staffs to understand the mechanisms by which customers create attributions and form perceptions in order to relate to them. The practical usage of this importance has been proven by the very staffs who engaged in such actions, in the meaning that they tended to sell higher volumes than their colleagues whose activity was limited to retail, and did not include efforts to consolidate the customer network.

4. Learning theory

Within the Great Northern American, increased emphasis is being placed on the continuous formation of the staff members, in an effort to continually improve their skills and ability to relate to the customers. In order to attain this objective, several learning theories could be employed, in the meaning that the company could use various methods of creating and capitalizing on more staff knowledge.

Within the context of the firm however, the more applicable such theory would be represented by the social learning theory. The underlying idea of this theory is that the researcher (in this case, the sales staff) observes the behavior of the interlocutor (in this case, the targeted customer) in order to understand their decision making mechanisms.

“The social learning theory emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Thus it focuses on learning by observation and modeling. […] Social learning theory talks about how both environmental and cognitive factors interact to influence human learning and behavior. It focuses on the learning that occurs within a social context. It considers that people learn from one another, including such concepts as observational learning, imitation, and modeling” (University of South Alabama).

The social learning theory then is applicable at the Great Northern American since it allows sales staffs to observe the customers and adapt their approach so that it best appeals to the needs of the clients. Additionally, the theory is useful in the organization’s context since it allows staffs to observe and learn from each other.

5. Implementation of the learning theory

The social learning theory is a less structured approach to understanding human behavior, and it is difficult to implement in specific steps. The company must however find ways to implement it in order to improve employee performances. Some of the measures which should be taken by the executives at the Great Northern American in order to stimulate the implementation of this theory for employee performance include the following:

The creation of an organizational culture which fosters and promotes change and continuous learning as part of the daily operations

The creation of a working environment which fosters open communications between staffs, as well as between staffs and managers

The motivation of the staff members to engage in continuous learning through the observation of the customer and colleague behaviors

The creation of conditions of reproduction, in the meaning that it is necessary for the employees at the Great Northern American to be able to reproduce the behavior they saw working for other colleagues, but also that they need to be able to integrate the observed customer behavior within their professional decisions

The creation of mechanisms which reward performance improvements as a result of continuous learning.

6. Self-efficacy and sales staff hiring

Self-efficacy is simply understood as the ability of the individual to operate in an efficient manner in order to complete the tasks and attain the pre-established objectives. Joe Salatino should as such focus on leveraging an understanding of the value of self-efficacy in order to hire the most successful sales people. At this level then, he could consider the following:

Leadership by power of example, in order to motivate the staffs to overcome their limitations and increase their performances

The pursuit of individuals with previous expertise in sales operations

The pursuit of candidates with innate abilities, such as good communication skills or personal discipline

The capitalization on the expertise of the sales staffs and its usage as material to inspire and drive others

The employment of training operations in order to promote sales skills, but also the improvement of the personal skills to gain more discipline, more drive and more commitment to attaining the personal and professional goals.

7. Conclusions

The Great Northern America corporation is a sales company focused on the retail of various components throughout the entire country. The organization relies extensively on its sales force to reach consumers throughout the nation, and as such, to increase its revenues and profits. Given this impressive role of the staff members, the manager of the group, Joe Salatino, strives to hire and retain those employees who best serve the needs of the company and have the personal and professional skills to generate sales benefits. This commitment to the satisfaction and performances of the sales staffs is reflected at the level of the salaries offered to the respective employees. Aside from compensation however, Salatino should also place an increased emphasis on the shaping of the internal culture in order to integrate continuous learning through the social learning theory and the generation of employee performances through self-efficacy.


Kusluvan, S. (2003). Managing employee attitudes and behaviors in the tourism and hospitality industry. Nova Publishers.

Panagopoulos, N. (2010) Sales technology: making the most of your investment. Business Expert Press.

Social learning theory. University of South Alabama. accessed on January 28, 2013

Case: self-efficacy. Joe Salatino, President of Great Northern America.