How sales people unlock buyer's resources for seller outcomes
Positive outcomes in a business-to-business buyer-seller relationship occur best when resources are readily available from both partners in a trusting and communicative environment. Taking the seller’s perspective, this work-in-progress paper describes a study that assesses the effect that salespersons’ attributes and availability of resources from buyers have on relationship outcomes. The first question is the extent to which salespeople directly affect a relationship’s financial performance outcomes for their company by their focus on relationship-building activities that facilitate resource exchange. The second question concerns to what extent this focus by salespeople on relevant activities with the buyer further aids financial performance by facilitating the availability of the buyer’s resources to the seller. In order to answer these questions, the study develops suitable measures for its three main constructs, which are: salesperson’s relationship focus; availability of buyer’s resources; and relationship financial performance. Salesperson relationship focus is assessed in terms of six sales activities. The study then assess the three main constructs both qualitatively and quantitatively, and the relationships between them, in a proposed theoretical model. The study develops the theoretical model for testing using the IMP’s (Industrial Marketing and Purchasing) interaction model, based on its ARA concepts (Actor bonds, Resource ties, and Activity links). The model development also uses some of the ideas of the service-dominant logic of marketing. The sales management literature assists the development of measures for the set of activities that form the dimensions of the salesperson’s focus construct.
RESEARCH METHOD The study develops an initial model based on the literature and then makes a first assessment of its validity in a set of 14 qualitatively analyzed interviews. The measures of the model’s constructs also come initially from the literature, with further investigation, both deductively and inductively, in the interviews. The next phase of the study is the collection of survey data from senior salespeople. The study analyzes this data using correlations, exploratory 2 factor analysis, and structural equation modeling software to assess the measures and to assess the proposed model.
RESEARCH FINDINGS The analysis of the interviews supports the proposed model of the relationships between the three main constructs. The interview analysis also provides a sound basis for measures, both in supporting the validity of the measures found in the literature and in providing the basis for further measure development. The analysis of quantitative data from the survey gives good support for both the measures of the constructs and the proposed model. The study tests a rival model which it finds is not as viable as the proposed model.
3 MAIN CONTRIBUTION The study develops measures for two key constructs, which are the availability of a buyer’s resources to its business partner and the level of a salesperson’s relationship focus in terms of activities that are specific to facilitating this availability of resources of the buyer to its supplier. The study empirically tests the validity of these two constructs and their association with the relationship performance from the seller’s perspective. These contributions have significance for theory and for management. They provide the basis for further research into value creation between buyer and seller how this value creation might be affected by such facilitating constructs as trust and how they affect relationship outcomes such as new product development. The findings provide useful information for managers in that they show which salesperson activities are important for facilitation of resource availability from customers and how an increase in this availability positively affects financial performance of a relationship. The findings provide quantitative evidence of the importance to relationship outcomes of the availability of resources for integration at the buyer-seller interface as expressed by IMP research. The study also shows the influence that the attributes of individual actors have on both resource availability and outcomes.