Personal selling and relationships a review and explorative essay

Abstract: The overall scope of this doctoral thesis is focusing on selling. The thesis contains two studies; Study A is a synopsis of a licentiate thesis published in 2002, while Study B contains three journal articles. Study A examined industrial selling in Swedish manufacturing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The research addressed three research questions dealing with selling activities, individuals involved in selling, and selling processes in three different selling contexts. Study A adopted a qualitative research approach; it used a case study research strategy and collected the primary data through personal interviews. The study included four cases, interviewing a total of 19 respondents in various positions within the selected companies. The study's findings indicate that selling activities performed by manufacturing SMEs in this study are complex and include a variety of activities. The numerous individuals found to be involved in selling represented several different functions within the selling company. Furthermore, the findings indicated that the studied companies included external individuals when performing their selling activities. Finally, the performed selling activities could be described in several selling processes. These findings suggest that the selling processes vary from rather simple and transaction-oriented selling processes to more complex processes dealing with both long-term customer relationships and single transactions. Study B examined relationships in selling in the financial services industry, looking specifically at the relationships between members of a sales force and other members of the same organization as well as relationships between salespeople and customers. All three articles included in this study applied a quantitative research approach. The first article, "The Impact of Incentives on Interfunctional Relationship Quality: Views from a South African Firm," sought to discover the extent to which different functional groupings perceived the incentives an organization offers its personnel as being "fair." The setting for the research in this article was a small- to medium-sized marketer of financial services in a South African context. Data were collected using questionnaires; 141 usable responses were received, representing a response rate of 81 percent. The findings from this article provide evidence that small but significant differences exist in the perceptions of the fairness of incentives provided. The second article, "Trusting Relationships. How Salespeople View the Quality of Relationships with Friends and Customers," as well as the third article "Personal Acquaintances and Salespeople in Financial Services: Differences Between Customers and Friends," deals with the relationships between salespeople and friends, salespeople and good customers, and salespeople and bad customers. However, the two articles used different scales to measure these relationships. In the second article, relationships were measured using the Trusting Relationship questionnaire; in the third article, relationships were measured using the Personal Acquaintance measure. Data from both articles were gathered from a large Swedish firm in the financial services industry through questionnaires sent to salespeople. The questionnaire resulted in 119 usable responses for both articles, corresponding to a response rate of 60.1 percent. Based on the results presented in both articles, salespeople do not perceive relationships with friends in the same way as they perceive their relationships with customers. Similarly, both articles provide evidence that salespeople perceive relationships with good customers to be different from those with bad customers.

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