Revisit: The Sales Profession


Thought Leadership on the Sales Profession, Research competition sponsored by MSI and the Sales Excellence Institute at the University of Houston; Deadline now 6 May 2013


The Marketing Science Institute (MSI) and the Sales Excellence Institute (SEI) at the University of Houston are pleased to announce a research competition to promote thought leadership on the sales profession. We anticipate awarding 4-7 grants ranging from $5,000-$25,000 to support high quality research on critical questions in this area. A favorable bias will be given to research proposals that focus on interesting substantive questions and provide managerial insight.

Winning proposals will be invited to present their research at the next Thought Leadership on the Sales Profession Conference, which will be held at Columbia University in the spring of 2014. This conference intends to showcase the best practices taking place in the field today and to promote discussion between leading academics and senior practitioners.

Proposals must be received by May 6, 2013. Funding decisions will be announced in late June or early July.


The sales profession continues to bloom, with start-ups redefining the way goods are bought and sold and Fortune 500 firms learning how to manage global accounts. Although the sales profession continues to grow and evolve, academic teaching and research have failed to keep pace. The purpose of this proposal competition is to help bridge this gap by stimulating innovative research on professional selling and sales force management.

As was announced at the first Thought Leadership Conference at the Harvard Business School this past spring, this competition will favor research proposals that make a difference in practice. Any topic in professional selling and sales force management is acceptable, but all proposals should provide valuable insights for practitioners and stimulate idea generation that could lead to important contributions to the marketing and sales professions.

Winners will be invited to give TED-style presentations of their findings at the next Thought Leadership Conference on the Sales Profession. This conference is uniquely focused on promoting interaction between leading academics and high-profile practitioners in sales.


Managerial challenges that fit in the scope of this research competition include, but certainly are not limited to, the following:

  • How is the digital economy changing the way that sales and marketing organizations engage with their customers? How are new capabilities and organizational structures evolving?
  • How is consultative selling changing in a more socially connected and transparent marketplace?
  • How can Fortune 500 companies effectively sell to both major accounts and small- and medium-sized enterprises?
  • How are key account management practices changing as major accounts have become global in scope?
  • How do CRM systems affect the tension between sales and marketing?
  • How do startups use their sales forces to gather information for new product development?


All research proposals should touch on the following areas:

  • Problem – what is practical problem addressed and why is it important
  • Approach – an outline of the approach and methodology
  • Expected Results – if all goes as planned, what do you expect to learn from your research
  • Implications for Practice – how would your results help managers make strategic decisions
  • Implications for Theory – how would your results advance academic theory

Proposals will be evaluated by the following committee:

  • Mike Ahearne, University of Houston (Co-chair)
  • Tom Steenburgh, University of Virginia, Darden School (Co-chair)
  • Noel Capon, Columbia University
  • John Deighton, Harvard Business School/Marketing Science Institute
  • Bob Kelly, Sales Management Association
  • Ajay Kohli, Georgia Tech
  • Jim Lattin, Stanford University
  • Len Lodish, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania
  • Earl Taylor, Marketing Science Institute
  • Bart Weitz, University of Florida


Submissions must be received by May 6, 2013. E-mail submissions to – Ross Rizley, Research Director, Marketing Science Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA; Telephone: 617-491-2060. Please indicate that your submission is in response to this call.

While there are no formal guidelines for formatting proposals, submissions should include:

  • A one-page summary
  • A clear statement of the expected contribution, such as a new framework or methodology, a better understanding of how key variables affect marketing processes, or new information to assist managers in making better marketing decisions
  • A background section giving a brief review of the relevant literature and a statement of how the proposed research is expected to contribute to knowledge and improve business practice
  • A list of research questions, models, or hypotheses describing the issues to be studied, the researchers’ initial insights or beliefs, and what should be learned from the study
  • A detailed description of the proposed research design, methodology, model to be used, analysis plan, etc. (Methodological details will play a critical role in the evaluation process.)
  • A timetable, including dates for key research milestones, deliverables, and an expected completion date
  • Funding or support needs (typically, an itemized budget)
  • Vita(e) of the researcher(s), as well as a short biographical note and contact information for each author

Proposals must be no more than 10 double-spaced pages; however the summary, vita(e), and appendices/exhibits will not be counted toward the page limit.

Please feel free to include as appendices any additional materials that might be useful to the reviewers in evaluating your proposal (for example, drafts of research materials, questionnaires, more detailed explanations of statistical analysis, and/or modeling plans, lengthy literature review, detailed development of hypotheses, description of datasets to be used, etc.)

The Hardware and Software Behind ELMAR Is Paid for with AMA Dues
Please Support ELMAR by joining the AMA or renewing your membership