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Salesperson's listening ability as an antecedent to relationship selling

Tanya Drollinger (Faculty of Management, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada)
Lucette B. Comer (Department of Consumer Sciences and Retailing, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 28 January 2013




In this study, active empathetic listening is purposed as being an antecedent to a salesperson's communication skill, ability to maintain quality relationships and build trust. The study proposes that communication skill, relationship quality and trust all moderate the relationship between AEL and sales performance.


Survey research using salespersons was conducted; structural equation modeling was used to test the hypotheses of the model.


The findings confirmed that AEL was positively related to salespersons' communication skills, relationship quality and trust. The proposed moderators of communication and trust received support when predicting sales performance.

Research limitations/implications

This was the first empirical study to examine the role of AEL in a relationship selling model. AEL was found to directly affect levels of trust, relationship quality and overall communication skills of salespeople. More research on the role of AEL in the relationship selling process should be investigated.

Practical implications

Managers that focus on long-term relationships in a dyadic buyer-seller relationship may benefit most from this study. A scale that can be used to measure existing levels of AEL in the sales force is included. AEL may better enable salespeople to develop long-term relationships with their customers.


This study examines a form of listening (AEL) that is proposed to be superior to other forms of listening within the personal selling context. Presently little research on the importance of listening and its impact on relationship building exists. This is the first study to test AEL as an antecedent to relationship skills of salespeople.



Received 26 June 2009Revised 22 October 200913 May 20108 February 201119 May 2011Accepted 26 June 2011


Drollinger, T. and B. Comer, L. (2013), "Salesperson's listening ability as an antecedent to relationship selling", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 50-59.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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