Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

First Advisor

Bruce Alford


According to William Raspberry “Good English, well-spoken and written, will open more doors than a college degree. Bad English will slam doors you didn’t even know existed.” This dissertation examines the use of Standard American English (SAE) vis-à-vis African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in a sales situation. This dissertation is grounded in the Stereotype Content Model (SCM) and its two dimensions, warmth and competence. This research reveals the perceived influence that a particular dialect has on stereotype activation, through warmth and competence in a personal selling situation. This study extends marketing and sales literature by specifically focusing on AAVE vis-à-vis SAE in a sales situation to better understand how language activates the perceived warmth and competence of consumers and managers and in turn impacts cognitive, affective, and behavioral outcomes. This dissertation analyzes SCM and its effect on cognitive, affective, and behavioral outcomes through two studies representing the consumer perspective and managerial perspective.

Communication plays a significant role in the exchange process that occurs in a sales context and in a hiring situation involving a sales context. Language can provide cues about the speaker’s ethnicity, geographic location, and educational background. Based on the salesperson’s presentation, the consumer and manager can determine whether he/she would like to initiate a business relationship. Unfamiliarity with the use of AAVE vis-à-vis SAE as well as difficulty with processing the information being conveyed can prompt consumers and managers to base their perceptions on biases and stereotypes.

The consumer perspective examined the impact of AAVE vis-à-vis SAE on the activation of warmth and competence. The activation of warmth and competence was examined in regard to its influence on the consumer’s attitude toward the brand, evaluations of the salesperson, and purchase intention. The manager perspective examines how the use of AAVE vis-à-vis SAE activates the dimensions of warmth and competence. The activation of warmth and competence was examined for its effect on the manager’s attitude toward the salesperson, evaluations of the salesperson, and hiring recommendation. The results of the experiment indicate the need for a salesperson who wants to increase the likelihood of career success to speak SAE in order to obtain a more favorable rating from both customers and managers.

Overall, this study advances the marketing literature by revealing practical and theoretical implications surrounding salespersons’ linguistic ability and their overall success in the sales arena. The results of this study demonstrate that SAE speakers are perceived as being both warmer and more competent than speakers of AAVE. The findings of this dissertation extend the knowledge regarding how language, specifically AAVE vis-à-vis SAE, can influence consumer and manager perceptions of salespersons in a sales situation.