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1 The Dark Side of Adaptive Selling Paolo Guenzi SDA Bocconi, Bocconi University, Milano, Italy Luigi De Luca Cardiff Business School, UK Rosann Spiro.

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Presentation on theme: "1 The Dark Side of Adaptive Selling Paolo Guenzi SDA Bocconi, Bocconi University, Milano, Italy Luigi De Luca Cardiff Business School, UK Rosann Spiro."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 The Dark Side of Adaptive Selling Paolo Guenzi SDA Bocconi, Bocconi University, Milano, Italy Luigi De Luca Cardiff Business School, UK Rosann Spiro Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, USA

2 2 Overview  Introduction  Literature review  Knowledge gaps and research goals  Model and hypotheses  Method  Findings  Discussion and contribution  Directions for future research

3 3 Introduction: in personal selling, adaptiveness is a key success factor

4 …but should salespeople always be adaptive? Is there a dark side in adaptive selling? 4 Ho do customers react to adaptive salespeople?

5 5 Introduction AS is the capacity to engage in a wide range of selling behaviours and activities, and the alteration of sales behaviours and activities in keeping with situational considerations (Weitz, Sujan, and Sujan 1986). Adaptations in sales interactions help salespeople customize the content and format of their messages, which in turn increase communication effectiveness by improving rapport and the handling of objections. Consistent with the contingency model of salespeople’s effectiveness (Weitz, 1981), research largely concludes that AS improves salesperson performance (e.g. Giacobbe et al., 2006; Spiro and Weitz, 1990). This conclusion is also supported by the meta-analytic findings of Franke and Park (2006).

6 6 Knowledge gaps and research goals 1. “The relationship between ADAPTS and performance is inconclusive” (Spiro and Weitz, 1990, p.67) and “the literature on the effect of adaptive selling behaviour on performance seems to present mixed results” (Romàn and Iacobucci, 2010, p.370). These mixed results are especially true if one considers the few studies investigating customers’ reactions to the use of AS (e.g. Hartline and Ferrell, 1996; Rapp et al., 2006) 2. Studies on AS are based on evaluations provided by sellers, not by customers (e.g. Franke and Park, 2006: 0/26 ; Giacobbe et al., 2006: 0/27; Romàn and Iacobucci, 2010: 1/20). 3. AS literature largely overlooked the impact of this selling behaviour on long-term, customer relational outcomes (e.g. trust).

7 Knowledge gaps and research goals (continued) 4. Most studies have not investigated the simultaneous impact of AS and other behaviours on the performance of salesperson. A customer’s reaction to salesperson’s AS may be contingent upon his/her perception of the presence (or absence) of other behaviours. The impact of AS on the customer may vary depending on wether or not it is matched by other relevant behaviours. 5. Few studies investigated the impact of situational variables on the AS-performance link: Porter, Wiener and Frankwick (2003), Giacobbe et al. (2006), Chackrabarty, Brown and Widing (2010) 6. Very few studies have been run outside the US 7

8 8 Conceptual model Adaptive selling Selling orientation Customer trust in the salesperson Length of the relationship Purchase importance Salesperson competence Importance of salesperson HP1 HP2 HP3 RQ1 RQ2

9 9 Hypotheses H1: Customer perceptions of a salesperson’s adaptive selling have no significant impact on customer trust in the salesperson. H2: Customer perceptions of a salesperson’s selling orientation are negatively related to customer trust in the salesperson. H3: Customer perceptions of a salesperson’s adaptive selling used in combination with a selling orientation are negatively related to customer trust in the salesperson. RQ1: How is the impact of customer perceptions of AS on customer trust in the salesperson affected by length of the relationship between the buyer and the seller, and importance of the purchase for the customer? RQ2: How is the combined effect of AS and SO on customer trust affected by length of the relationship between the buyer and the seller, and importance of the purchase for the customer?

10 10 Method: data collection Data were collected from a sample of 134 customers of one company in a B2B setting. Customers were asked to refer to a specific salesperson they interacted with from any of their suppliers. In the sample, 69% of respondents are male. Respondents are well distributed across different age groups (18-34: 19%; 35-44: 32%; 45-54: 20%; 55-64: 22%; 65 or more: 7%) and the average length of the interpersonal relationship between the buyer and the seller is 5.9 years

11 11 Method: items Adaptive Selling: short version of the original Spiro and Weitz (1990) scale developed by Robinson et al. (2002). Selling Orientation: 5 items included in the short form of the Saxe and Weitz (1982)’s SOCO scale proposed by Thomas, Soutar, and Ryan (2001). Customer trust in the salesperson: three items taken from Swan et al. (1988) Single-item measure of the length of the customer’s relationship with that salesperson. Purchase importance: single item measure of the monetary importance of the transactions the customer does through the specific salesperson under consideration. Control variables: –Competence: three items adapted from Hawes, Rao and Baker (1993). –Importance attributed to the salesperson when purchasing from suppliers: four-item measure, asking the customer to rate that specific salesperson’s importance relative to 1) the image of the company, 2) the quality of the product, 3) price and 4) the quality of the service offered by the supplier

12 12 Method: data analysis 1. Confirmatory Factor analysis: two items dropped. All items loaded significantly on the expected latent variable (t≥ 5.88) 2. Reliability analysis: all Cronbach Alpha above the 0.7 threshold. 3. Convergent validity: with one exception, the average variance in manifest variables extracted by constructs (AVE) is above Discriminant validity: the average variance extracted (AVE) for each construct exceeds the squared correlation between the construct and any other construct. 5. Multiple regression analysis with interaction terms. No multicollinearity problems

13 Findings 1. Perception of AS, in and of itself, has no impact on customer trust 2. SO negatively affects customer trust 3. SO, in combination with AS, negatively affects trust 4. Purchase importance and length of the relationship reduce the negative effect of the combination of adaptation and SO on trust 13

14 14 Discussion and contribution 1. Is there a dark side of Adaptive Selling? The perspective of customers should be taken 2. Selling Orientation is a negative driver of trust (Swan et al., 1999) 3. Further validation of Selling Orientation (Thomas, Soutar and Ryan, 2001; Periat, LeMay and Chakrabarty, 2004) scale outside the US 4. Sales managers should make salespeople aware of the potential pitfalls of adaption

15 15 Directions for future research Avoid using self-reported measures when investigating the impact of AS on performance Explore the impact of AS on different types of outcomes Investigate interaction effects between AS and other behaviours Consider situational factors when investigating the impact of AS on performance Investigate the impact of SO on performance Use larger samples Use longitudinal studies

16 16 Findings

17 17 Findings


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