Research Review – edited by Jeremy Noad 9.1 2023

14th February 2023 |   Dr Jeremy Noad

The research review aims to help readers keep up to date with recently published research on sales-related topics. The review highlights short abstracts of academically peer-reviewed research. This selection of published research is from a range of academic journals. In this edition, the abstracts include four themes that focus on sales performance, customer management, behavioural studies, and systems and tools.

Research Review – edited by Jeremy Noad 9.1 2023

Sales performance

Understanding value creation and value capture

The existing literature is fragmented across disciplines and does not provide a holistic, comprehensive view of how value is created, deployed, and captured. This paper aims to provide a structured view of the current literature and facilitates a theoretical understanding of value creation and capture in buyer-supplier relationships. An integrated, generalisable, and expandable framework is proposed based on the causal or interactive relationship among four components, namely, dimensions of value creation; processes and interactions by which buyers and suppliers enable value creation; relationship characteristics that affect these components; and value capture.

The findings are based on papers published in peer-reviewed academic literature. This study offers simple, practical guidelines that managers can apply in real-world situations to increase the value they gain from their relationships. The framework does not pretend to be exhaustive because such an attempt would be impractical. Rather, this study provides practical examples for each component and shows how additional concepts and constructs can be incorporated to make it inclusive and generalisable. Two new manners of value capture other than price negotiations are presented (volume and collaborative benefits).

Minerbo, C and Brito, L A L, “An integrated perspective of value creation and capture: a systematic literature review”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 2021

Key account management creates value

This paper seeks to address the research question of how the KAM approach promotes value co-creation in a multi-stakeholder ecosystem. The study aims to contribute to the growing stream of literature about the network perspective of value co-creation via key account management (KAM) by exploring how firms, in complex industrial markets, use key account strategies to create value, not only for buyers and sellers of industrial products/services but also, more widely, for larger ecosystems of stakeholders. The results show that KAM in complex networks acts as a catalyst for value creation through multiple interactions with different actors and an ad hoc configuration of five strategic levers: product performance, economic impact, institutional relationships, commercial organisation, and communication. These levers can unlock the appropriate value drivers and form a specific “market access mix” implemented by the firm to promote the adoption of the firm’s products and generate value for all market stakeholders.

The study offers an innovative and comprehensive evidence-based model for designing specific MA strategies to co-create value within multi-stakeholder ecosystems. The proposed MA mix outlines that knowledge, relationships and innovation are not unique factors that stakeholders can leverage to co-create value.

Leone, D, Schiavone, F and Simoni, M, “Key account management and value co-creation in multi-stakeholder ecosystems. A ‘market access’ mix”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 2021.

The structure of the key account management programme impacts performance

Two important areas in key account management (KAM) literature deal with different KAM frameworks and performance drivers. In particular, scholars have derived taxonomies of KAM configurations and identified organisational determinants of KAM effectiveness and performance in the market. The present paper contributes to the KAM literature with a quasi-replication and extension of two seminal papers providing an update of different KAM configurations and the determinants of KAM effectiveness and performance in the market. Using recently collected survey data from a sample of 411 managers and considering KAM capabilities and KAM communication, we find evidence of five unique KAM configurations that differ from the findings of Homburg et al. (2002), thereby doubtless reflecting a professionalisation of the KAM domain. Furthermore, updating Workman et al. (2003), we find that KAM capabilities are important determinants of KAM effectiveness and performance in the market and that social media communication increases KAM effectiveness. These insights contribute to building a cumulative up-to-date body of knowledge about KAM and provide guidance for managers to improve their KAM.

Herhausen, D, Ivens, B, Spencer, R. and Weibel, M, “Key account management configurations and their effectiveness: A quasi-replication and extension”, Industrial Marketing Management, 101, pp.98-112, 2022.

Organisations and sales managers must be intentional in managing relationships with their salespeople and strategic in the structure they use to manage customer relationships.

Effective supervisory leadership drives sales performance

The study aims to confirm a conceptualised framework regarding organisational and environmental indicators of sales performance on sellers in a business-to-business environment. The study is based on the meta-analyses of sales performance by Churchill et al (1985) and Verbeke et al (2011). The study tested a six-dimensional framework of organisational and environmental indicators with success. The different dimensions encompass a focus on the external environment, market orientation (internal environment), teamwork (internal environment), positive behavioural feedback (supervisory leadership), transformational leadership (supervisory leadership) and positive feedback (supervisory leadership). A foundation is provided to structure the assessment of sales performance in business-to-business settings through developing a business-to-business framework of organisational and environmental indicators in sales performance. In addition, a foundation for further studies on sales performance is delivered. Therefore, the study secures a practical orientation to organise and structure the process of business-to-business environmental and organisational planning through verified categories of organisational and environmental indicators divided into six categories.

Høgevold, N M, Rodriguez, R, Svensson, G and Roberts-Lombard, M, “Organisational and environmental indicators of B2B sales performance”, .

A blended approach of outcome-based and behaviour-based control by sales managers improves salesperson performance

Drawing on control systems and self-efficacy theories, the authors propose two alternative perspectives: a control systems convergence, which refers to a salesperson’s perception of their sales manager’s use of both behaviour-based and outcome-based controls together, and a control systems divergence, which is an unbalanced and more traditional view toward one dimension or the other. Using multi-sourced data, this research examines two frameworks: (1) the moderating role of self-efficacy on the main effects of control systems convergence and divergence on sales performance, and (2) the moderating role of past performance on the pattern of relationships leading to self-efficacy.

The results suggest that control systems convergence significantly impacts sales performance. Furthermore, self-efficacy moderates the main effect of control systems convergence, whereas high (vs low) levels of self-efficacy generate greater performance levels in low (vs high) convergence. Moreover, high (vs low) levels of self-efficacy generate more significant levels of performance in high (vs low) levels of divergence toward outcome-based control (ie, when outcome-based control is greater than behaviour-based control). In the alternative model, we found that performance explains self-efficacy, generating something like a reciprocal causality).

Vieira, V A, Jones, E, Faia, V D S, Silva, J D D and Negreiros, L F D, “The moderating role of self-efficacy in the relationship between control systems and sales performance”, Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, pp.1-22, 2022.

Value creation needs value-based pricing

The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of the dialogue, access, risk assessment and transparency model of value co-creation processes (dialogue, access, risk, and transparency) on new service market performance (NSMP) with the mediating role of value-informed pricing in the context of business-to-business (B2B). This study found that dialogue and transparency are predictors of NSMP. The findings indicate that value-informed pricing plays a mediating role in the relationship between dialogue and transparency with NSMP. Disclosing pricing-related information, providing up to date information to the customers, and clarifying new offerings to the customers would certainly influence value-informed pricing. Thus, managers can enhance customer engagement in the interaction processes to better understand customer expectations of new services and how the new services should be priced.

The link between value co-creation and value-informed pricing has been only conceptualised in literature. This study has opened a new stream of research, examining the relationship of interactional-based value co-creation process with value-informed pricing and NSMP in the context of B2B relationship from providers’ perspective.

Taghizadeh, S K, Rahman, S A and Marimuthu, M, “Value co-creation and new service performance: mediated by value-informed pricing”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 2021.

Customer management

Joint ACTION is needed as well as joint interest

This paper tests a research model consisting of hypothesised relationships within and between the domains of action and social alignment, based on buyer and seller perspectives in B2B relationships. Findings relate to the dual facets of the domain of membership theory. Cooperation represents more likely intangible and subjective interests of alignment, and coordination represents more likely tangible and objective actions of alignment in buyer and seller B2B relationships.

The study validates a research model of action and social alignment in buyer and seller B2B relationships. It contributes to comparing buyer and seller perspectives to existing theory and previous studies on quality constructs in B2B relationships. Practitioners in B2B settings need to focus on joint actions and joint interests, and vice versa, as a business relationship’s economic and non-economic satisfaction complement each other. It validates the research model of action and social alignment in the context of buyer and seller B2B relationships, and provides multiple contributions to existing theory and previous studies of relationship quality based on buyer and seller perspectives in B2B settings.

Guan, J L, Lee, T R, Otero-Neira, C, Svensson, G and Høgevold, N M, “Action and Social Alignment Constituents of Collaboration in B2B Relationships: Buyer and Seller Perspectives”, Journal of Relationship Marketing, pp.1-32, 2021.

Grit as a coping mechanism

This study aims to examine the impact of stress as a result of adverse life events on a salesperson’s ability to effectively manage customer relationships. The framework identifies burnout as a key mediating variable and salesperson grit as a coping mechanism. The findings reveal that adverse life events and their corresponding stress diminish a salesperson’s ability to manage customer relationships effectively through the mediators of reduced personal accomplishment and depersonalisation.

Thus, personal negative events can significantly impact salesperson outcomes and should be taken with the same level of seriousness as job-related stress. Furthermore, results show that salesperson grit provides mixed results as a coping mechanism. The findings indicate that practitioners should be mindful of adverse life events’ negative impact on work-related outcomes.

Organisations and sales managers must be intentional in managing relationships with their salespeople and strategic in the structure they use to manage customer relationships. Recommendations include regular one-on-one meetings to open up a dialogue about work or personal issues the salesperson is experiencing and assigning multiple resources or staff to service valuable customers, thereby not relying on solitary salespeople. Employee well-being contributes to firm value, yet this is the first study in sales to explore the impact of adverse life events on salesperson outcomes.

Rangarajan, D, Peasley, M, Paesbrugghe, B, Srivastava, R V and Stewart, G T, “The impact of adverse life events on salesperson relationships with customers,” Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 2020.

Facts beat emotions, even when selling luxuries

This research note provides the first insight into how salespeople should promote products that customers perceive as luxurious. The authors draw on the well-established finding of prior literature that purchasing luxurious products tends to make customers feel guilty. The authors theorise that informative salesperson communication (ie, conveying facts about a product) is more effective than emotional salesperson communication (ie, aiming to arouse positive affect), thereby leading to more favourable product evaluations and purchase intention. Furthermore, the advantageousness of informative salesperson communication for products perceived as luxurious is theorised to be particularly pronounced if these products serve hedonic functions and have relatively high price levels. Two studies, one field study and one scenario experiment, provide evidence supporting these predictions. This research note aims to stimulate further research on successful personal selling in luxury contexts.

Alavi, S, Kocher, B, Dörfer, S and Habel, J, “The role of salesperson communication in luxury selling”, Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 41(4), pp.301-315, 2021.

Behavioural studies

Unwritten behavioural rules need to be documented

Sales organisations are replete with informal forms of organisational control. Despite this, marketing and management literature has primarily focused on the theoretical development and empirical testing of formal, managerial forms of control. One reason research on informal controls has lagged is a lack of comprehensive measurement scales. Specifically, existing measures of the three principal types of informal controls—self, social, and cultural—do not capture the full dimensionality of the constructs (i.e., information, reward, and punishment aspects of informal controls). The authors take steps to remedy this situation by (1) outlining nine distinct dimensional types of informal control based on organisational control theory, (2) developing scales to measure the nine informal control constructs in a qualitative field study with 28 B2B salespeople, and (3) empirically validating the scales by establishing their psychometric properties and nomological validity using data collected from a diverse panel of 750 B2B salespeople.

Malek, S L, Sarin, S and Jaworski, B J, “A measurement model of the dimensions and types of informal organisational control: An empirical test in a B2B sales context”, International Journal of Research in Marketing, 2021.

Combined hunter/farmer roles have lower job satisfaction

To sustain firm profitability, it is critical for sales managers to direct business-to-business (B2B) salespeople to generate revenues by simultaneously acquiring new customers and selling to current customers. However, emerging research indicates territory-based B2B salespeople have a preferred customer engagement orientation that reflects a tendency for engaging in selling activities to new (ie, hunters) and/or existing (ie, farmers) customers, suggesting that managerial ambidexterity directives could have deleterious effects on salespeople.

This paper aims to address this possibility by investigating the moderating effects of salesperson regulatory focus on the relationship between managerial directives for salesperson ambidexterity and salesperson job satisfaction. The results indicate that sales manager ambidexterity requests reduce salesperson job satisfaction. However, the findings also demonstrate that salesperson regulatory focus moderates these negative effects such that the negative effect of manager ambidexterity requests on job satisfaction is reduced for salespeople with high vs low levels of regulatory focus ambidexterity balance. The results from the cross-sectional experimental study illustrate the cognitive mechanism that helps explain why this occurs.

The Fortune 500 firm used in Study 1 uses a territory-based generalist sales force model where salespeople are not incentivised to prioritise hunting over farming (and vice versa). As a result, the findings may not generalise to firms with hunting/farming incentive systems or those that operate in particular industries requiring a focus on hunting or farming.

The findings show why managers attempting to direct territory-based salespeople to increase their ambidexterity behaviours may undermine the job satisfaction of certain salespeople by triggering a decrease in motivation. In contrast, the same directives have the opposite effect on other salespeople. The findings also demonstrate salesperson reactions to ambidexterity requests, which provide additional insights for effective salespeople hiring, training and management. The findings have implications for better understanding the effectiveness of sales management leadership directives. The study also offers a promising direction for future research to investigate salesperson receptivity to managerial controls.

DeCarlo, T.E., Powers, T. and Sharma, A., “Manager directives for salesperson ambidextrous selling and resulting job satisfaction: a regulatory focus perspective”, European Journal of Marketing, 2021.

Sales transformation components mapped out

This study aims to offer a conceptualisation of sales transformation, a phenomenon that redefines the role of salespeople and the nature of business-to-business (B2B) relationships while disrupting the selling logic across various industries. Sales transformation is a multidimensional construct that includes four higher-order dimensions: people, digitalisation, integration, and acceleration, and 16 sub-dimensions. These dimensions simultaneously contribute to the sales transformation phenomenon conceptualised as a systemic process. Although many companies are facing challenges stemming from the process of sales transformation, most studies have only focused on micro-aspects of this transformation.

This study provides a holistic view of sales transformation aimed at understanding the complexity of this phenomenon by adopting a macro-level perspective on the different dimensions that contribute to its occurrence and development. This study also offers a measurement tool to assess the degree of sales transformation and enhance the value generated through sales.

Corsaro, D and Maggioni, I, “Sales transformation: conceptual domain and dimensions”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 2021.

Research Review – edited by Jeremy Noad 9.1 2023

Transformation leadership is needed in every sales channel

Growing digitisation puts more pressure on bricks-and-mortar businesses in the retail sector by creating new and more complex customer demands that increase the need for cooperative and trustful exchange relationships between supervisors and salespeople. Implementing less hierarchical leadership structures is a promising approach to tackling these challenges. While sharing leadership on the team level gains traction among practitioners as a viable form of horizontal leadership, research provides little evidence on the conditions and mechanisms that enable a shared leadership work environment for retail salespeople. Especially the role of formal leaders in such a transition remains unclear.

To fill this void, we followed a two-study design. We conducted a large-scale survey with 1,527 salespeople of a German fashion retailer to analyse how formal leadership contributes to the existence of a less hierarchically structured work environment for retail salespeople. Our multiple mediation analysis provides in-depth and context-sensitive insights into conditions and mechanisms that facilitate a shared leadership environment. A subsequent online-based scenario experiment confirms that transformational leadership is a driver for a shared leadership environment.

We contribute to the literature by showing that transformational leadership matters in business-to-business (B2B) settings and traditionally more transactional business-to-consumer (B2C) retail sales settings to create a shared leadership environment.

Van der Berg, A M, Foege, J N and Nüesch, S, “Toward a shared leadership environment: insights into retail salespeople’s work environment”, Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, pp.1-17, 2021.

Through the eyes of my supervisor

This study integrates identification and motivation theory to show the relationship between a salesperson’s perceived personal identification with his/her supervisor, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and three sales outcomes (turnover intention, outcome performance, and behavioural performance). The study results find support in nine of ten hypotheses, including the notion that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are essential mediators of the linkage between a salesperson’s perceived personal identification with their supervisor and turnover intention as well as performance. This study serves to bridge a gap in the identification literature by focusing on perceived personal identification in the salesforce domain, as well as answering the call for more research on the influences of salesperson work engagement (motivation) and drivers of sales performance.

Mallin, M L, Hancock, T D, Pullins, E B. and Gammoh, B S, “Salesperson’s perceived personal identification with supervisor and the relationship with turnover intention and performance: a mediated motivation model”, Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, pp.1-22, 2022.

Salespeople’s social media adoption increases customer acquisition performance if salespeople communicate in a customised way (indicated by customer orientation). Strikingly, … this effect is negative if salespeople communicate in a standardised way (indicated by, for example, performance orientation).

Systems and tools

Social media is a vital tool for inside sales

The nature of inside sales has shifted, increasing in autonomy, importance, and scope. Moreover, buyers are changing their preferences from face-to-face interactions to virtual-based relationships, leading to a future full of opportunities for inside salespeople using social media. The practitioner literature suggests that inside sales represent the sales business model of the digital era and a distinct strategic selling approach.

While there has been a recent surge in theoretical research on inside sales, extant research fails to explore how and why inside salespeople use social media as a critical tool. Research on social media use in sales has neglected to consider the growing role of inside sales, where sellers lack the opportunity to meet with customers face-to-face and must routinely rely on remote communication to interact with customers. As such, we use a grounded theory approach to investigate the “lived experiences” of inside salespeople at the intersection of social media in sales.

Emergent from our findings is a framework depicting: inside sales strategic social media use > inside salesperson-customer digital engagement > inside sales performance. We also find that firm digital technology resources serve as enablement factors shaping the effects of the social media strategies that salespeople use.

Chaker, N.N., Nowlin, E.L., Pivonka, M.T., Itani, O.S. and Agnihotri, R., 2022. Inside sales social media use and its strategic implications for salesperson-customer digital engagement and performance. Industrial Marketing Management, 100, pp.127-144.

Acceptance of AI needed to deliver sales performance

This research is among the first to examine salespeople’s acceptance of AI (artificial intelligence), and we investigate the drivers of their AI acceptance from the managers’ perspective. In this study, we propose and empirically demonstrate that perceived ease of use, self-efficacy, perceived management support, and digitalisation positively relate to salespeople’s acceptance of AI. Moreover, we show that digitalisation mediates the relationship between salespeople’s prospecting/adaptive selling capabilities and their AI acceptance. The results suggest that to incentivise AI acceptance, managers need to build adequate digital infrastructure, cultivate organisational support to encourage AI adoption and usage, provide professional training to educate salespeople on the proper usage of AI, and reduce salespeople’s perceived risk of AI usage. Theoretical and managerial implications are discussed subsequently.

Chen, J and Zhou, W, “Drivers of salespeople’s AI acceptance: what do managers think?” Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, pp.1-14, 2021.

The use of social media increases customer acquisition by salespeople

Even as salespeople increasingly adopt social media, sales research and practice struggle to understand how their application can help salespeople acquire customers. According to motivation literature, the outcomes of salespeople’s social media adoption should depend fundamentally on the interplay of the level and direction of social media adoption. Therefore, this article empirically explores under which conditions social media adoption enhances or impedes the customer acquisition performance of salespeople.

Based on a multi-level data set containing objective performance data and surveys of salespeople, the results of this study reveal that salespeople’s social media adoption increases customer acquisition performance if salespeople communicate in a customised way (indicated by customer orientation). Strikingly, the study also unveils that this effect is negative if salespeople communicate in a standardised way (indicated by, for example, performance orientation). These findings, in turn, offer several managerial and theoretical implications.

Schendzielarz, D, Alavi, S and Guba, J H, “The impact of salespeople’s social media adoption on customer acquisition performance–a contextual perspective”, Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, pp.1-19, 2022.

Articles featured in the research review are unavailable from the editorial staff or the International Journal of Sales Transformation. The publishers and authors acknowledge the copyright of the articles. Readers wishing to find out more about a particular paper can use a simple search online using the author and paper title to find out more details on the paper. Any correspondence regarding the Sales Transformation Research Review, including recommendations of articles for future issues, should be sent to the section editor:

Dr Noad coaches sales leaders and teams | + posts

Dr Jeremy Noad edits our Research Review. As an advocate both of sales excellence and translating sales research into action, he has been our Research Review section editor since day one. A 25-year sales and marketing veteran who has worked with sales organisations on all major continents, Dr Noad guides and coaches sales leaders and their teams to transform sales performance and effectiveness. His present focus is on global sales effectiveness with a $20bn market leader. He completed his doctorate on improving sales performance at Portsmouth University.