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The impact of adverse life events on salesperson relationships with customers

Deva Rangarajan (Department of Marketing, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, USA)
Michael Peasley (Department of Marketing, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA)
Bert Paesbrugghe (IESEG School of Management, Lille, France and LEM-CNRS 9221, Lille, France)
Rajesh V. Srivastava (Department of Marketing, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA)
Geoffrey T. Stewart (Department of Marketing, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana, USA)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 27 January 2020

Issue publication date: 23 November 2021




This study aims to examine the impact of stress as a result of adverse life events on a salesperson’s ability to effectively manage customer relationships. The framework identifies burnout as a key mediating variable and salesperson grit as a coping mechanism.


Survey data is gathered from 364 B2B salespeople and investigated using structural equation modeling in Mplus 8.2.


The findings reveal adverse life events and their corresponding stress diminish a salesperson’s ability to manage customer relationships effectively through the mediators of reduced personal accomplishment and depersonalization. Thus, negative events of a personal nature can have a significant impact on salesperson outcomes and should be taken with the same level of seriousness as job-related stress. Furthermore, results show that salesperson grit provides mixed results as a coping mechanism.

Practical implications

The findings indicate that practitioners should be mindful of the negative impact adverse life events can have on work-related outcomes. Organizations and sales managers must be intentional in managing relationships with their salespeople and strategic in the structure they use to manage customer relationships. Recommendations include the use of regular one-on-one meetings to open up a dialogue about work or personal issues the salesperson is experiencing and assigning multiple resources or staff to service valuable customers, thereby not relying on solitary salespeople.


Employee well-being contributes to firm value; yet, this is the first study in sales to explore the impact of adverse life events on salesperson outcomes.



Rangarajan, D., Peasley, M., Paesbrugghe, B., Srivastava, R.V. and Stewart, G.T. (2021), "The impact of adverse life events on salesperson relationships with customers", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 12, pp. 2126-2138.



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