Making B2B Sales Interactions Valuable - A Social and Symbolic Perspective
Abstract: Salespeople’s work has always been regarded a crucial contributor to businesses’ value creation by researchers and practitioners alike. As tangible products are not at the core of interactions between salesperson and customer in the context of services-based or non-standardized markets, sales’ role is assigned greater influence in the understanding, creating and delivering of customer value. Underlying this understanding of the sales and traditional business marketing literature is the notion of value being objective and brought into the interaction by the salesperson through actions or tangible products. Alongside this understanding and in line with recent developments in the business marketing literature, this study considers the nature of value to be interpretive, contextual and interactive. Arguably, value is constructed in interaction between those individuals involved in business relationships. The study claims that the discussions in the relevant literature on value and value creation in a B2B context do not suffice to explain the phenomenon of value and its construction in sales interactions that are part of the everyday realities of business relationships. By shadowing 13 salespeople in their day-to-day work in interactions with customers and internal colleagues, this study investigates the activities and processes through which salespeople attempt to make sales interactions valuable. Informed by ideas from symbolic interactionism, the study depicts four themes that describe salespeople’s acts in the attempt to make sales interactions valuable for those involved. Moreover, the study pinpoints the underlying processes of evaluation and influence by which salespeople interpret and imagine customer value and act so as to influence the course of the sales interactions. By introducing a social and symbolic perspective, this study offers an alternative theoretical understanding of value creation in business marketing. The study’s managerial contribution lies in offering a nuanced understanding of the salesperson’s role in value creation.
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