Goal-Setting Paradoxes? Trade-Offs Between Working Hard and Working Smart: The United States Versus China

Eric Fang, Robert W. Palmatier, Kenneth R. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article proposes a model of the impact of goal difficulty and goal specificity on selling behaviors (selling effort, adaptive selling, and sales planning) and hence sales and behavior performance. The model suggests that goal-setting factors may have opposing effects on different sales behaviors. The empirical findings suggest that goal difficulty positively influences selling effort while negatively influencing adaptive selling behaviors. The results show that goal difficulty and goal specificity both have opposite effects on the two dimensions of working smart: adaptive selling and sales planning. The findings support the need for sales managers to account for the cultural context of the salesperson when determining optimal goal-setting strategies. With data collected from salespeople in the United States and China, the cross-cultural differences regarding the effects of goal-setting factors are also proposed and empirically supported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-202
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Academy of Marketing Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive selling
  • Goal difficulty
  • Goal setting
  • Goal specificity
  • Sales planning
  • Working hard
  • Working smart

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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