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Salesforce responsive roles in turbulent times: case studies in agility selling

Benoit Bourguignon (Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Rouyn-Noranda, Canada)
Harold Boeck (School of Management, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada)
Thomas Brashear Alejandro (Fundação Getulio Vargas EAESP, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 5 July 2021

Issue publication date: 13 August 2021




Salespeople are at the forefront of the external environment where they act as the first responders to critical events and their resulting business turbulence. How the salesforce responds to turbulence is, therefore, of great interest both theoretically and in practice. The paper aims to rekindle interest in agility selling, which is the most adequate behavioral sales model to exploit environmental uncertainty.


An organizational autoethnography complemented with data from in-depth interviews with key salespeople involved in turbulence resulted in the development of eight case studies.


Salespeople use agility selling through four possible responsive roles. They amplify, innovate, cooperate or mitigate turbulence to exploit its ensuing opportunity or minimize its negative effect for both the supplier and the customer. The article enhances the agility selling model by putting three core abilities in the forefront: (1) forecasting turbulence from critical events, (2) responding to changes quickly and adequately and (3) exploiting changes as opportunities.

Research limitations/implications

The article argues that critical events are the cause of the turbulence that the salesforce must deal with before it hits the dyad. Agility selling represents an untapped research opportunity in business-to-business sales, and sales management, as well as within the overall agile organization.

Practical implications

Sales organizations would greatly benefit in implementing training of agility selling’s core abilities because responsiveness is a valuable tool for salespeople in times of turbulence.


The study is the first to empirically demonstrate the existence of agility selling.



Bourguignon, B., Boeck, H. and Brashear Alejandro, T. (2021), "Salesforce responsive roles in turbulent times: case studies in agility selling", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 8, pp. 1286-1299.



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