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Awareness, action and context‐specificity of blue ocean practices in sales management

Petri Parvinen (Aalto School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)
Jaakko Aspara (Aalto School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)
Joel Hietanen (Aalto School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)
Sami Kajalo (Aalto School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 6 September 2011




This paper aims to investigate the role of new value creation mechanisms in a company's sales strategy. Using value creation and strategic marketing as theoretical approaches, the study explores the underpinnings of blue ocean strategy (BOS) and categorizes ways in which BOS is reflected in sales management activities. The link to performance and the influence of contextual moderation are also examined.


The article reports on a study on sales management in a 168‐respondent survey of CEOs and sales directors of Finnish companies across industries. The operationalization is quantitative, and principal component analysis with the varimax rotation method is used to examine the companies' approach to executing BOS and the firms are categorized using the cluster analysis method. Furthermore, the linkage to self‐reported business performance is statistically analyzed.

Research limitations/implications

This study identifies four approaches to using BOS: strategic awareness‐building; customer‐specific solution orientation; enforcement‐orientation; and non‐employment of blue ocean thinking. While only the enforcement‐orientation cluster has superior performance to non‐users of BOS across the entire sample, there are surprisingly notable performance differentials within different combinations of contexts.

Practical implications

The study points out that enforcing BOS at the level of action and implementation in sales management pays off. The findings entail that choosing between the identified BOS approaches and implementing them should be context‐specific. Furthermore, the development of skills is emphasized over knowledge management.


For concepts primarily directed at managerial audiences, the theoretical foundations and empirical testability is often not the primary concern. This study presents investigative work geared at revealing the key factors underlying blue ocean strategies in sales management. The paper represents one of the first verifications of the link between blue ocean strategy and business performance.



Parvinen, P., Aspara, J., Hietanen, J. and Kajalo, S. (2011), "Awareness, action and context‐specificity of blue ocean practices in sales management", Management Decision, Vol. 49 No. 8, pp. 1218-1234.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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