Social network theory and the sales manager role: engineering the right relationship flows

Karen Flaherty, Son K. Lam, Nick Lee, Jay P. Mulki, Andrea L. Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sales leadership research has typically taken a leader-focused approach, investigating key questions from a top-down perspective. Yet considerable research outside sales has advocated a view of leadership that takes into account the fact that employees look beyond a single designated individual for leadership. In particular, the social networks of leaders have been a popular topic of investigation in the management literature, although coverage in the sales literature remains rare. The present paper conceptualizes the sales leadership role as one in which the leader must manage a network of simultaneous relationships; several types of sales manager relationships, such as the sales-manager-to-top-manager and the sales-manager-to-sales manager relationships, have received limited attention in the sales literature to date. Taking an approach based on social network theory, we develop a conceptualization of the sales manager as a "network engineer," who must manage multiple relationships, and the flows between them. Drawing from this model, we propose a detailed agenda for future sales research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-40
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Personal Selling and Sales Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


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