This study aims to examine the positive and negative consequences of relationship closeness between salespersons and their business customers in a B2B sales context: sales performance and salesperson passive opportunism.
Drawing on the social exchange theory, the authors develop a conceptual model of positive and negative consequences of relationship closeness. The authors empirically test the model using matched survey data from 269 salesperson-sales supervisor dyads and individual sales performance ratings from one of the largest distribution and market expansion companies in Myanmar.
Results provide evidence of positive (i.e. sales performance) and negative (i.e. salesperson passive opportunism) consequences of salesperson’s perceived relationship closeness. These relationships are, however, contingent on organization-level and employee-level factors. High extent of supervision enhances the effects of salesperson’s perceived relationship closeness on sales performance but attenuates its influence on salesperson passive opportunism. The effect of salesperson’s perceived relationship closeness on salesperson’s passive opportunism is stronger for salespersons with a promotion (vs prevention) focus.
The results offer guidelines to firms seeking to optimize the efficacy of close relationships between their salespersons and customers. For example, higher levels of supervision could increase the likelihood of positive outcomes of relationship closeness while minimizing its negative consequences.
To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is the first to demonstrate not only the benefits of relationship closeness between salespersons and customers but also its dark side: the relationship closeness paradox.
Wang, Y., Hampson, D. and Han, M. (2020), "Relationship closeness paradox: contingency analysis in B2B sales", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBIM-04-2019-0168Download as .RIS
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