Salesperson Solution Involvement and Sales Performance: The Contingent Role of Supplier Firm and Customer-Supplier Relationship Characteristics

Nikolaos G. Panagopoulos, Adam A. Rapp, & Jessica L. Ogilvie
Article Snapshot
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Sales Solution Performance
Key Takeaways

​What? Salesperson solution involvement is the degree to which a salesperson engages in activities that help a company provide solutions to customers. 

So What? Salesperson solution involvement is linked to increases in sales performance.

Now What? Amplify impact by providing each salesperson with a deep product portfolio, by improving sales unit's interactions with other functions, and by targeting customers willing to invest in a cooperative relationship.

​Article Snapshot: Executive Summaries from the Journal of Marketing

Salesperson solution involvement comprises a set of activities, which enact the four relational processes inherent in customer solutions, and which are systematically linked to increases in both subjective and objective, time-lagged metrics of sales performance.


Our work offers managers a comprehensive definition of salesperson solution involvement that can help them avoid communication problems when designing and rolling-out training or strategic initiatives related to solution provision within their firms.

Given the interest of firms in the topic, managers can use this scale to perform internal (by administering it to salespeople) or competitive benchmarking against rival sales forces (by administering it to customers), thereby providing useful insights to sales leaders.


Research Question

Firms around the globe – including the majority of Fortune 100 firms – have assigned top priority to building a sales force that is effective in providing customer solutions. However, little research has examined how salesperson involvement in customer solutions can be conceptualized, whether it pays-off, and what boundary conditions might heighten its performance effects.

Methods

We leverage a unique dataset comprising five studies across firms, industries, and countries. In Phase I, we develop and validate the salesperson solution involvement scale through two pre-studies that capture both the supplier and customer perspective. In Phase II, we test hypotheses in three field studies involving data from salespeople, managers, customers, and archival performance measures.

Findings

We find support that salesperson solution involvement is a second-order construct comprising four dimensions that reflect the customer-supplier relational processes inherent in customer solutions. Salesperson solution involvement is systematically related to improvements in sales performance, including objective, time lagged measures of quota achievement and net profits. Boundary conditions related to the characteristics of both the supplier firm and the customer-supplier relationship amplify these effects.

Implications

Firms across industries (e.g., Salesforce.com, Google, American Express, IBM, General Electric, Citigroup, Dell) rely on salespeople to provide customer solutions. Sales engineers are the highest paid sales professionals employed by U.S. firms. To get the most out of salespeople's involvement in customer solutions, managers should (a) make sure that salespeople are provided with an adequately broad and deep product portfolio; (b) improve sales unit’s interactions with other functions; and (c) target customers willing to invest in a long-term, cooperative relationship with the supplier.

Questions for the Classroom

  • How is the salesperson involved in the provision of customer solutions?

  • What activities does a salesperson need to engage in when providing customer solutions?

  • What do suppliers need to do to get the most out of their salespeople's involvement in customer solutions?


Article Citation: Nikolaos G. Panagopoulos, Adam A. Rapp, and Jessica L. Ogilvie (2017) Salesperson Solution Involvement and Sales Performance: The Contingent Role of Supplier Firm and Customer–Supplier Relationship Characteristics. Journal of Marketing: July 2017, Vol. 81, No. 4, pp. 144-164.

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jm.15.0342



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Nikolaos G. Panagopoulos, Adam A. Rapp, & Jessica L. Ogilvie
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