Direct selling; language barrier; personal selling; regional language; sales force; salespeople


This paper discussed the language barriers of the sales force in personal selling. For the purpose, ten types of language barriers are tested with a sample of 180 salespeople who are chosen by convenience sampling method in two southern States of India namely Andhra Pradesh and Telangana where majority people speak in the Telugu language. By snowball sampling method, conversational interviews are conducted with the sampled sales force and investigated the specific language barrier that was highly troubled them during their conversations with the customers. From the total responses, ranks are given to each barrier. Study results revealed that in AP and Telangana more salespeople experienced the barriers of literacy, jargon, dialects, unclear sound, and accent. Few troubled by-word choice, pidgins, semantic gaps, slang, and linguistic ability. In urban markets, more salespeople averted by word choice and literacy, in rural areas more was hostile to semantic gaps and Jargon. The female sales force was more concerned with literacy, slang, and accent. More male sales representatives are apprehensive about dialects, unclear sound, and jargon. A similar study recommended by extending to other southern States in India such as Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, to find out the barriers of Indian regional languages in direct selling at rural and urban markets.

Full Text : PDF

  1. Agnihotri, R., Gabler, C. B., Itani, O. S., Jaramillo, F., & Krush, M. T. (2017). Salesperson ambidexterity and customer satisfaction: examining the role of customer demandingness, adaptive selling, and role conflict. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 37(1), 27–41.
  2. Agnihotri, R., Vieira, V. A., Senra, K. B., & Gabler, C. B. (2016). Examining the impact of salesperson interpersonal mentalizing skills on performance: the role of attachment anxiety and subjective happiness. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 36(2), 174–189.
  3. Albers, S., Krafft, M., & Mantrala, M. (2010). Special section on Enhancing Sales Force Productivity. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 27(1), 44–45.
  4. Albers, S., Raman, K., & Lee, N. (2015). Trends in optimization models of sales force management. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 35(4), 275–291.
  5. Anderson, S. R. (2012). Languages: a very short introduction.Languages.
  7. Annamalai, E. (2008). Contexts of multilingualism. In Language in South Asia (pp. 223–234).
  8. Basu, A. K., Srinivasan, L. V., & Staelin, R. (1985). Salesforce Compensation Plan: And Agency Theoretic Perspective. Marketing Science, 4(4), 267–291.
  9. Becton, J. B., Gilstrap, J. B., & Forsyth, M. (2017). Preventing and correcting workplace harassment: Guidelines for employers. Business Horizons, 60(1), 101–111.
  10. Bhaskararao, P., & Ray, A. (2017). Telugu. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 47(02), 231–241.
  11. Bhattacharya, U. (2017). Colonization and English ideologies in India: a language policy perspective. Language Policy, 16(1).
  12. (2018). Language Barriers to Communication. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from
  14. Caldieraro, F., & Coughlan, A. T. (2009). Optimal Sales Force Diversification and Group Incentive Payments. Marketing Science, 28(6), 1009–1026.
  15. Campbell & Anantam (Ed.). (1905). A Progressive Grammer of the Telugu Language (Second). Madras: SPCK Press, Vepery, Madras. Retrieved from
  17. Census of India. (2011). Population composition. Census of India, 11–28.
  18. Chaudhary, S. (2008). Foreigners and foreign languages in India: A sociolinguistic history. Foreigners and Foreign Languages in India: A Sociolinguistic History.
  19. Cross, M. E., Brashear, T. G., Rigdon, E. E., & Bellenger, D. N. (2007). Customer orientation and salesperson performance. European Journal of Marketing, 41(7/8), 821–835.
  20. Currivan, D. B. (2011). Conversational Interviewing. Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods.
  21. DeVincentis, J. R., & Rackham, N. (2015). Breadth of a salesman. In Pricing and the Sales Force (pp. 136–145).
  22. Dragojevic, M., Berglund, C., & Blauvelt, T. K. (2018). Figuring Out Who’s Who: The Role of Social Categorization in the Language Attitudes Process. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 37(1), 28–50. 
  24. Durisala, N., Prakash, S. G. R., Nambi, A., & Batra, R. (2011). Intelligibility and Acoustic Characteristics of Clear and Conversational Speech in Telugu (A South Indian Dravidian Language). Indian Journal of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, 63(2), 165–171.
  25. Eira, C. (2008). Linguists and communities: Discursive practice and the status of collaborative language work in indigenous communities. In Language and Intercultural Communication (Vol. 8, pp. 278–297).
  26. El Banna, A., Papadopoulos, N., Murphy, S. A., Rod, M., & Rojas-Méndez, J. I. (2018). Ethnic identity, consumer ethnocentrism, and purchase intentions among bi-cultural ethnic consumers: “Divided loyalties” or “dual allegiance”? Journal of Business Research, 82, 310–319.
  27. Euromonitor. (2012). Retailing in India - Jan 2016. Growth (Lakeland), (March), 1–21.
  28. Factors, S., Maintenance, L., & Shift, L. (2000). Language Maintenance, Shift, and Death. Language, 493–49.
  29. Feng, Y., Guo, Z., & Chiang, W. K. (2009). Optimal Digital Content Distribution Strategy in the Presence of the Consumer-to-Consumer Channel. Journal of Management Information Systems, 25(4), 241–270. 
  31. Ferguson, S. H., & Kewley-Port, D. (2007). Talker Differences in Clear and Conversational Speech: Acoustic Characteristics of Vowels. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 50(5), 1241.
  32. Fishman, J. A. (1989). Language and ethnicity in minority sociolinguistic perspective. Multilingual Matters.
  33. Gabler, C. B., & Hill, R. P. (2015). Abusive supervision, distributive justice, and work-life balance: Perspectives from salespeople and managers. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 35(3), 247–261.
  35. Geiger, S., & Turley, D. (2006). The Perceived Impact of Information Technology on Salespeople’s Relational Competencies. Journal of Marketing Management, 22(7–8), 827–851.
  37. Glaz, A. (2001). Language Diversity and Cognitive Representations (review). Language.
  39. Gopalakrishna, S., Garrett, J., Mantrala, M. K., & Sridhar, S. (2016). Assessing sales contest effectiveness: the role of salesperson and sales district characteristics. Marketing Letters, 27(3), 589–602.
  40. Granfield, M., & Nicols, A. (1975). Economic and Marketing Aspects of the Direct Selling Industry. Journal of Retailing, 51(1), 33–49.
  41. Gregory, C. A., & Bhatia, T. K. (2002). Advertising in Rural India: Language, Marketing Communication, and Consumerism. The Journal of Asian Studies, 61(1), 286.
  42. Groff, C. (2017). Language and language-in-education planning in multilingual India: a minoritized language perspective. Language Policy, 16(2), 135–164.
  43. Hammann, P. (2005). Personal selling. European Journal of Marketing, 13(6), 141–176.
  44. Hansen, J. D., Lund, D. J., & DeCarlo, T. E. (2016). A process model of buyer responses to salesperson transgressions and recovery efforts: The impact of salesperson orientation. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 36(1), 59–73.
  45. Harrison, D. E., & Hair, J. F. (2017). The Use of Technology in Direct-Selling Marketing Channels: Digital Avenues for Dynamic Growth. Journal of Marketing Channels, 24(1–2), 39–50. 
  47. Homburg, C., Müller, M., & Klarmann, M. (2011). When does salespeople’s customer orientation lead to customer loyalty? The differential effects of relational and functional customer orientation. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39(6), 795–812.
  48. (2018). Project Shakti | Sustainable Living | Hindustan Unilever Limited website. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from
  49. Hygge, S., Ro¨nnberg, J., Larsby, B., & Arlinger, S. (1992). Normal-Hearing and Hearing- Impaired Subjects’ Ability to Just Follow Conversation in Competing Speech, Reversed Speech, and Noise Backgrounds. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 35(1), 208.
  50. (2014). THE ANDHRA PRADESH REORGANISATION ACT, 2014. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from 2014
  51. Jones, E., Brown, S. P., Zoltners, A. A., & Weitz, B. A. (2005). The changing environment of selling and sales management? Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 25(2), 105
  52. .
  53. KPMG. (2017). Direct 2016: The contribution of Direct Selling to building India. Retrieved from 
  55. Kräkel, M., & Schöttner, A. (2016). Optimal sales force compensation. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 126, 179–195.
  56. Krishnamoorthy, A., Misra, S., & Prasad, A. (2005). Scheduling sales force training: Theory and evidence. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 22(4), 427–440.
  57. LaDousa, C. (2010). On mother and other tongues: Sociolinguistics, schools, and language ideology in northern India. Language Sciences, 32(6), 602–614.
  58. Laitin, D. D. (1993). Migration and language shift in urban India. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 103(1), 57–72.
  59. Larsen, V. (1993). A Sociolinguistic Approach to Gender and Personal Selling. ACR North American Advances, NA-20. Retrieved from
  60. Lavrakas, P. J., & Battaglia, M. (2008). Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods. In Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods (p. 429).
  61. MacKenzie, P. J. (2009). Mother tongue first multilingual education among the tribal communities in India. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 12(4), 369–385.
  63. Mackey, W. F. (1966). The measurement of bilingual behavior. Canadian Psychologist/Psychologie Canadienne, 7a(2), 75–92.
  64. Madalli, D. P., & Patel, D. (2009). Issues in Indian languages computing in particular reference to search and retrieval in Telugu language. Library Hi Tech, 27(3), 450–459.
  65. Madan Shankar, K., Kannan, D., & Udhaya Kumar, P. (2017). Analyzing sustainable manufacturing practices – A case study in Indian context. Journal of Cleaner Production, 164, 1332–1343.
  67. Madhani, P. M. (2013). Managing Sales Compensation. Compensation & Benefits Review, 45(2), 105–114.
  68. (2013). Languages in Andhra Pradesh. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from 
  70. Mariadoss, B. J., Milewicz, C., Lee, S., & Sahaym, A. (2014). Salesperson competitive intelligence and performance: The role of product knowledge and sales force automation usage. Industrial Marketing Management, 43(1), 136–145.
  71. Murphy, A. (2012). Other tongues: rethinking the language debates in India. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development.
  72. Plough, I. C. (2014). Development of a test of speaking proficiency in multiple languages. Papers in Language Testing and Assessment, 3(2), 27–52.
  73. Prabhakar Babu, B. A. (1977). Emphasis in Telugu. Phonetica, 34, 191–199. Retrieved from 
  75. Proctor, L. M. (2014). English and Globalization in India: The Fractal Nature of Discourse. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 24(3), 294–314.
  76. Quach, S., & Thaichon, P. (2018). Dark motives-counterfeit selling framework. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, MIP-04-2017-0069.
  77. Reid, D. A., Plank, R. E., Peterson, R. M., & Rich, G. A. (2017). Examining the use of sales force management practices. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 32(7), 974–986.
  78. Román, S., & Rodríguez, R. (2015). The influence of sales force technology use on outcome performance. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 30(6), 771–783.
  79. Salzmann, Z. (2003). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics (review). Language, 79(4), 824–825.
  81. Sandhu, P. (2015). Stylizing voices, stances, and identities related to medium of education in India. Multilingua, 34(2), 211–235.
  82. Schneider, B. A., Li, L., & Daneman, M. (2007). How Competing Speech Interferes with Speech Comprehension in Everyday Listening Situations. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 18(7), 559–572.
  84. Shannahan, R. J., Bush, A. J., Shannahan, K. L. J., & Moncrief, W. C. (2017). How salesperson perceptions of customers’ pro-social behaviors help drive salesperson performance. Industrial Marketing Management, 62, 36–50.
  85. Sharma, A. (2016). What personal selling and sales management recommendations from developed markets are relevant in emerging markets? Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 36(2), 89–104
  86. .
  87. Shree, D., Gupta, A., & Sagar, M. (2017). Effectiveness of cause-related marketing for differential positioning of market entrant in developing market: An exploratory study in Indian context. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 22(2).
  88. Shukla, S. (2006). Hindi. In Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics (pp. 303–305).
  89. Siguaw, J. A., Kimes, S. E., & Gassenheimer, J. B. (2003). B2B sales force productivity: Applications of revenue management strategies to sales management. Industrial Marketing Management, 32(7), 539–551.
  91. Singh, D., Pattnaik, C., Gaur, A. S., & Ketencioglu, E. (2018). Corporate expansion during pro-market reforms in emerging markets: The contingent value of group affiliation and diversification. Journal of Business Research, 82, 220–229.
  92. Singh, J. K., Misra, G., & De Raad, B. (2013). Personality Structure in the Trait Lexicon of Hindi, a Major Language Spoken in India. European Journal of Personality, 27(6), 605–620.
  93. Singh, R., Kumar, N., & Puri, S. (2017). Thought self-leadership strategies and sales performance: integrating selling skills and adaptive selling behavior as missing links. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 32(5), 652–663.
  94. Smith, B., Andras, T. L., & Rosenbloom, B. (2012). Transformational Leadership: Managing the Twenty-First Century Sales Force. Psychology and Marketing, 29(6), 434–444.
  95. Solomonson, F. (1922). The genesis of language. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 8(4), 372–379. 
  97. (2018). Standard Competition Ranking. Retrieved from 
  99. Sravanthi, M. C., Prathyusha, K., & Mamidi, R. (2015). A dialogue system for telugu, a resource-poor language. In Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics) (Vol. 9042, pp. 364–374).
  100. Sreekumar, P. (2009). Francis Whyte Ellis and the Beginning of Comparative Dravidian Linguistics. Historiographia Linguistica, 36(1), 75–95.
  101. Sunardi, O., Widyarini, M., & Tjakraatmadja, J. H. (2012). The Impact of Sales Forces Training Program to Employees Behaviour Styles (A Quasi-experimental Case Study In a Medium Sized Enterprise). Procedia Economics and Finance, 4, 264–273.
  102. Swani, K., Brown, B. P., & Milne, G. R. (2014). Should tweets differ for B2B and B2C? An analysis of Fortune 500 companies’ Twitter communications. Industrial Marketing Management, 43(5), 873–881.
  104. Tanniru, K., Narne, V. K., Jain, C., Konadath, S., Singh, N. K., Sreenivas, K. J. R., & Anusha, K. (2017). Development of equally intelligible Telugu sentence-lists to test speech recognition in noise. International Journal of Audiology, 56(9), 664–671.
  105. Thaler, R. H., & Tucker, W. (2013). Smarter information, smarter consumers. Harvard Business Review.
  106. The Tribune. (2012). Model norms to curb Ponzi schemes. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from
  108. Trautmann, T. R. (2004). Discovering Aryan and Dravidian in British India: a tale of two cities. Historiographia Linguistica, 31(1), 33–58.
  109. Trivedi, M., Gauri, D. K., & Ma, Y. (2017). Measuring the Efficiency of Category-Level Sales Response to Promotions. Management Science, 63(10), 3473–3488.
  110. Upadhyay, R. K., & Hasnain, S. I. (2017). Linguistic diversity and biodiversity. Lingua, 195, 110–123
  111. .
  112. Usha Ponnala. (1998). Telugu Maandalikalu. Hyderabad: Telugu Akademi. Retrieved from 
  114. Verma, Y. S. (1980). Marketing in Rural India. Management International Review, 20(4), 47.
  115. Weitz, B. A., & Bradford, K. D. (1999). Personal Selling and Sales Management: A Relationship Marketing Perspective. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 27(2), 241–254.