استراتژی فروش رابطه ای و رفتارهای رابطه ای مدیران حساب کلیدی: مطالعه اکتشافی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|21508||2007||13 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||10042 کلمه|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Industrial Marketing Management, Volume 36, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 121–133
Many companies see key account management as a potentially successful way to implement a relational strategy. Nevertheless, the literature suggests that strategy implementation at the sales force level is difficult to achieve, mainly because salespeople may not understand – nor accept – what they are requested to do. Despite their relevance, behaviors of key account managers have poorly been investigated. This article defines and tests a model of relational selling behaviors from the part of key account managers. Results show that the perception of the adoption of a relational selling strategy is associated with some specific key account managers' behaviors (customer-oriented selling, adaptive selling and team selling), but not with others (organizational citizenship behaviors). These findings suggest that potential discrepancies can exist between a relational selling strategy and its implementation at the key account manager level. Based on these results, theoretical and managerial implications are discussed.
During the past decade, both academics and practitioners have devoted increasing attention to the adoption of a relational approach in managing customer relationships (Morgan & Hunt, 1994). This trend has been particularly relevant in industrial markets, where buyer–seller relationships are typically characterized by complexity, interdependence and long-term orientation (Anderson and Narus, 1991, Dwyer et al., 1987 and Heide and John, 1992). In applying the relational perspective to business-to-business environments, three aspects deserve special attention. First, scholars have pointed out that relational strategies should be adopted selectively, because, mainly due to the high costs and the risk they imply, they may not be the optimal solution in managing all customer relationships (Pillai and Sharma, 2003, Reinartz and Kumar, 2000, Sharma and Pillai, 2003 and Sheth and Reshma, 2003). Hence, a relational approach should be applied mainly to key (or strategic) accounts. Second, the actual implementation of a relational strategy requires appropriate changes in the marketing organization (Webster, 1997): the most relevant organizational response to the adoption of relational strategy has been the creation of key account management structures and processes (Homburg, Workman, & Jensen, 2000). Third, the success of such relational strategies is strongly dependent on the ability to create interpersonal bonds between the supplier and the customer: in other words, the boundary-spanning persons are of fundamental importance in building long-lasting relationships between the organizations involved (Iacobucci and Ostrom, 1996, Mavondo and Rodrigo, 2001 and Narayandas and Rangan, 2004). These three aspects are strongly interrelated: in other words, companies willing to establish and develop relational strategies with their strategic accounts should have their key account managers performing activities which are consistent with such strategies. Unfortunately, frequently this is not the case, because these boundary-spanners may lack the skills, competences and attitudes required to successfully create and sustain enduring relationships with customers (Sharma, 2001 and Wilson and Millman, 2003). We believe that current knowledge about these aspects is very limited for at least two reasons. First, most of the research on key account management focused on strategic or organizational aspects, while the topic of the role played by the individual key account managers' behaviors in implementing it has been almost completely overlooked except for very few partial works (Ulaga and Sharma, 2001, Walter, 1999 and Wilson and Millman, 2003). In fact, although many studies have been run on relationship selling (e.g. Jolson, 1997), in most cases this topic has not been researched in the specific key account management setting. Second, the few existing studies on the implementation of the company's marketing strategies at the sales department level clearly show that there are usually substantial inconsistencies and poor alignment between strategies and sales force behaviors (Viswanathan and Olson, 1992 and Strahle et al., 1996). Hence, this aspect deserves further investigation. To sum up, due to the above-cited importance of boundary-spanners in actually implementing the selling firm's relational intent (especially in key account management settings), we can conclude that this topic is relevant and under-investigated. In fact, research specifically devoted to analyze the impact on key account managers' behaviors of the adoption of a relational strategy by the selling firm is almost non-existent. Starting from these considerations, the main purpose of this article is to fill this gap by exploring the link between a selling firm's relational strategy, on the one side, and the adoption of some important relational behaviors from the part of the key account managers, on the other. Importantly, in our framework we do not take into account the role played by organizational and managerial aspects potentially mediating the impact of the relational selling strategy on salespeople's behaviors. In other terms, we do not focus on strategy implementation issues in a global sense: we only investigate the existence of a direct link between some key account managers' relational behaviors and their perceptions of the adoption of a relational strategy from the part of their firms. This article is organized as follows. Firstly, we introduce the notion of relational selling strategy and briefly describe key account management as a way for implementing the selling firm's relational strategy. Secondly, we identify and define relational behaviors that, based on extant literature, should be associated to a relational selling strategy. Next, we develop hypotheses concerning how, according to literature on the topic, relational selling strategy is expected to be linked to some specific key account managers' behaviors. Then hypotheses are tested using structural equation modeling. Finally, we discuss theoretical and managerial implications, outline limitations of the study and highlight future research opportunities.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This research proposed a conceptual framework and empirically tested a set of hypotheses concerning the link between the supplier's perceived relational selling strategy and its key account managers' relational behaviors. Consistently with the findings of previous studies on strategy execution at the sales force level, we found a discrepancy between the “ideal” behaviors requested by the strategic focus of the selling company and the actual behaviors performed by key account managers. In short, our research shows that relationship selling strategy stimulates individual-level behaviors that have a direct impact on key accounts (i.e. customer-oriented selling, adaptive selling, team selling) but not discretionary, extra-role organizational citizenship behaviors. This is noteworthy, because organizational citizenship behaviors are particularly relevant in work team situations (like key account management) especially because, as noted by Podsakoff et al. (2000, p. 546) they can increase coworker productivity, help coordinate activities within and across work groups, and enable the whole organization to adapt more effectively to customer needs. The contribution of our research to current knowledge can be summarized as follows. Firstly, findings of our study clearly show that the key account managers' perception of the adoption of a relational strategy from the part of the selling firm is associated with the adoption of some specific classes of behaviors (i.e. customer-oriented selling, adaptive selling, team selling) which can contribute to the creation of strong and long-lasting positive relationships with customers. Although this association had already been postulated by anecdotal evidence and theoretical articles, the importance of its empirical validation in a key account management context should not be underestimated. This is especially true in the light of some controversial findings on the topic of strategy implementation at the sales department level (e.g. Strahle et al., 1996). Secondly, to the best of our knowledge this is the first study analyzing the link between the company's strategic orientation (i.e. relationship selling) and organizational citizenship behaviors: traditionally, researchers have investigated four classes of drivers (employee, task, and organizational characteristics as well as leader behaviors) without taking into account the selling firm's strategy (Podsakoff et al., 2000). Thirdly, our research is one of the very few empirical studies on selling behaviors run in not-English speaking countries. This is particularly relevant for organizational citizenship behaviors because, as pointed out by Podsakoff et al. (2000, p. 556), cultural context may affect the relationship between such behaviors and their antecedents, for example due to the importance of collectivism in different cultures (see for example Menguc, 2000). Some specific characteristics of Italy, in comparison to the US, may explain why we did not found support to the hypotheses of a link between relationship selling strategy and organizational citizenship behaviors. In fact, in Italy key account management is a more recent, less consolidated phenomenon: as a consequence, in this context of transition the role of key account managers is probably much more similar to that of the “traditional” salesperson, which is usually more focused on the external activities (i.e. customer-oriented selling and adaptive selling) than on the internal activities that do not directly affect their accounts (i.e. organizational citizenship behaviors). Moreover, compared to the US, the average size of companies in Italy is much smaller: consequently, key account managers may lack the organizational support which is an important antecedent of organizational citizenship behaviors (Podsakoff et al., 2000). Fourthly, our framework included relational behaviors of different nature, by means of the simultaneous consideration of externally-oriented behaviors (i.e. those affecting relationships with customers, such as customer-oriented selling and adaptive selling) and internally-oriented behaviors (organizational citizenship behaviors,). This completeness is important in the light of the multiplicity and interconnectedness of relationships in the relational perspective. Finally, we developed and tested a new construct (i.e. team selling) which is particularly relevant and consistent with the relational approach as well as with literature on key account management. 7.1. Theoretical implications In key account management literature only few notable exceptions (Abratt and Kelly, 2002 and Boles et al., 1996) analyzed individual-level behaviors, and the topic of relational strategy implementation at the individual level is still almost unexplored. This is disappointing, especially in the light of the importance of this topic in both managerial practice and academic research on industrial markets. The findings of our research suggest devoting special attention to relationship strategy implementation issues. However, our research did not specifically investigate how can be accomplished the goal of aligning key account managers behaviors to the selling firm's relational strategy, nor why this goal is not fully accomplished in our sample. We believe that, also starting from our findings, some streams of research may be particularly helpful in analyzing implementation aspects that were not addressed in this research. Firstly, literature on marketing organization suggests that both structural and task characteristics should fit with strategic type to increase performance (Vorhies & Morgan, 2003). In our perspective, this implies that the behavioral performance of key account managers may be contingent on the appropriate design of key account management structure and processes. In fact, it has been pointed out that key account management is not a “black or white” phenomenon: actually there are different types of key account organizations (Homburg et al., 2002) which may prove to be more or less consistent with a relational strategy. In many cases the shift toward relational-oriented key account management has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number and the variety of tasks and activities of former salespeople, which translated into work overload and frustration due to a new role described as difficult, stressing and thankless (Sharma, 2001). Secondly, literature on incentive systems suggests that employees' behaviors are affected by a combination of incentive instruments, such as compensation, asset ownership and job design (Holmstrom & Milgrom, 1994). In the case of key account managers, performance evaluation is difficult because team selling is involved, non-selling activities are important and results are often gained over the long term. This may drive to key account managers experiencing lack of recognition and justice from the part of their companies. Taken together, these considerations may help understand the absence of empirical evidence, in our study, of the postulated link between relationship selling strategy and organizational citizenship behaviors. In short, due to the combination of the complexity of their job, on the one side, and the contextual presence of inappropriate marketing organization and incentive systems, on the other, key account managers may feel role stress and a lack of perceived fairness, which may inhibit organizational citizenship behaviors (Podsakoff et al., 2000). In conclusion, we argue that almost all research to date on organizational citizenship behaviors has investigated salespeople, not key account managers, but the characteristics, tasks and responsibilities of the key account manager position are very different compared to those of the traditional salesperson. Consequently, an in-depth analysis of the antecedents of such behaviors in key account management settings should deserve special attention. 7.2. Managerial implications The most important managerial implication of our study is that, because the adoption of a relational strategy per se does not necessarily drive to consistent behaviors at the individual level, sales managers should place more attention and emphasis in stimulating key account managers to adopt all the relational behaviors which may contribute to the maintenance of long-term relationships with key accounts. In general terms, to do this, managers should first of all recognize that the key account manager's job is not the same of the traditional salesperson. Consequently, managers should clearly understand what behaviors are required to successfully implement the specific key account management program they have in place, taking into account the particular key account organization they have designed. Then, managers should identify the set of competences and skills key account managers should possess, select (by recruiting or promoting) the candidates that best fit these characteristics, and invest in training programs aimed at filling the major gaps between ideal and actual profiles. More specifically, special attention may be devoted to foster internally-oriented, extra-role behaviors. In fact, our research clearly shows that the key account manager's perception of the adoption of a relational selling strategy, from the part of the company, does not raise his/her organizational citizenship behaviors. In other words, it would seem that key account managers do not consider acting as good citizens as an important trait related to their role and job position. Extant research showed that, to increase this attitude and stimulate organizational citizenship behaviors, sales managers have many tools at their disposal. Firstly, they should place a lot of attention in organizational design aspects, because work overload and overwhelming responsibilities may drive key account managers to emotional exhaustion and burnout, thus preventing them from adopting organizational citizenship behaviors. Secondly, sales managers should reduce role ambiguity by accurately defining key account manager's job descriptions. Thirdly, managers should stimulate extra-role behaviors through leadership. Fourthly, a supportive and cooperative climate should characterize the sales team, fifth team-based incentives may be adopted. Finally, the overall incentive system (from compensation to career paths) may take into account, at least in part, also the evaluation of the key account manager's internal activities. In short, sales managers should clearly define and manage the role of the key account manager as an internal facilitator bringing solutions both externally (to the key customers) and internally (to everyone who needs information about the customer and can contribute to the value creating process for the key account) ( Pardo, 1999 and Wilson and Millman, 2003).