A simultaneous examination of the effects of salesperson relationship-building activities and marketing activities on retail buyers' purchase decisions

  • Steffen Fixson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Firms’ contemporary selling practices often not only demand that salespeople meet sales quotas, but also that they build strong, profitable relationships with customers. Given the belief that relationship-building activities can develop closer customer ties and improve sales performance, scholars have increasingly studied salesperson behaviors aimed at nurturing buyer-salesperson relations. However, while previous sales research has investigated the effects of a number of relational activities on performance outcomes in isolation, knowledge about their effectiveness in comparison to other important performance drivers is virtually absent. The present study provides some first theoretical and empirical insights into this research gap by simultaneously examining the role of
specific salesperson relationship-building activities, and product-focused variables, in retail buyers’ new product purchase decisions.
Following an extensive literature review, a two-part qualitative field study was conducted to explore salesperson relationship-building activities that are regarded as important by retail buyers. Two key relational behaviors were suggested by the customer-centric and retail industry-specific data; salesperson consultation (communication-based) and salesperson helping behavior (action-based). Drawing on this as well as extant literature, a conceptual framework was developed concerning the influences of these relationship-building activities and other product-focused factors on retail buyers’ new product acceptance.
The study’s quantitative component contained a mail and web survey of U.S. retail buyers, resulting in a total dataset of 192 responses. After a comprehensive measure
validation process, the theoretical hypotheses were tested using logistic regression analysis. Contrary to existing assertions, the results suggest that salesperson relationship-building activities themselves do not directly and/or indirectly influence purchase decisions, but instead can moderate the effects of product-focused determinants on retail buyers’ new product selections. Data on actual purchase decisions provide a high level of external validity to the findings. The study closes with a concluding discussion, including theoretical and managerial implications of the findings, limitations of the research, and directions for future inquiry.
Date of AwardAug 2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorNicholas J Lee (Supervisor) & John M Rudd (Supervisor)


  • logistic regression
  • new products
  • retail industry
  • salesperson-relational behaviors
  • selling performance

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