Tiistai 24.2.2015 - Heidi Kock
I’ve been working in various sales management positions for over 20 years, and three years ago I decided to take a leap into the academic world. Due to my past experience, I was very familiar with the sales challenges companies were facing. I must say, it took me a bit by surprise at how little academic research there was on some of the sales topics I found utterly critical in business life.
As sales has become more and more demanding during the past years due to the transformation of buying and selling, I’ve witnessed how vital it is for companies to have employees who are capable of selling. I do not mean only salespeople, even though they form the backbone of a company’s sales function. I mean all the people involved in selling including (but not limited to) technical consultants and support, customer service, and maintenance, all the people who either directly encounter customers or have a supporting role within the company. In my mind, they are salespeople too. In our Mania research project, the importance of this area has become quite evident. My interest lies especially in how the whole organization can be active in selling, and how to aid companies to develop their sales function accordingly. That is the topic of my doctorate thesis, as well.
In sales, I think combining the practioners’ and academics’ viewpoints is a good way to provide research that makes a difference for the business world, as well as making an academic contribution. Our research team is a good example of this. Getting the best out of both worlds will definitely help create something novel and different, and, more importantly, impactful.
The companies in Finland have been very open and generous towards our project. Company representatives are willing to give interviews, and even allow video recordings on authentic sales meetings. So far, we have collected an impressive amount of data, 100+ seller and buyer interviews and 20+ video recordings on authentic sales meetings between buyers and sellers. This makes it possible to ask and analyze matters more deeply instead of making generalizations based on quantitative (questionnaire) data collection. At this point I feel as if I were sitting on a pile of gold.
As an academic researcher, this is a learning process for me, one more reason this is even more interesting. Thanks to my highly competent academic colleagues, I have gotten the kind of coaching, mentoring and practical advice that makes me want to sell the concept of practitioner/academic collaboration to Finnish universities.
Our research project will be completed by the end of this year. We have currently started to analyze the data, and we have already written several scientific articles to be published in conferences. By the end, we will publish more findings in academic journals, as well as develop sales tools for companies. Hopefully, one piece of that will be to spread the sales culture further throughout businesses.
Selling belongs to everyone. Spread the word.
Researcher, lecturer, sales practitioner
Torstai 12.6.2014 klo 12:28 - Hanna Timonen
In the MANIA research project we see business-to-business selling as an inherently social and human phenomenon. In fact, the value created by business relationships can never be purely established by looking at the price or quality of the sales offering, but is always uniquely created and determined by and in the relationship itself. As a result, in MANIA we want to take a closer look at the social processes and human interaction that takes place within business-to-business sales.
So, how do we actually do this? With our multidisciplinary research group we are trying out and developing a novel mix of research methods through which we could study both the actual activities taking place in the sales interaction and the underlying processes in the sales and customer organizations. In addition to qualitative, mainly narrative interviews in both the sales and customer organizations, we are also observing the daily activities of salespeople, video-recording actual real-life sales encounters with customers, and conducting MBTI-profiles on both the sellers and the customers involved in the interaction.
Yes, I know! We truly get to see not only internal workings of the sales organization, but can also follow the actual sales meetings and interview also the customers! For us researchers this is all very exciting. It’s a really unique research setting, but it does have its challenges as well. We can only truly thank our company partners and their individual sellers in being open-minded and brave enough to open us not only their own doors, but the doors of their customers as well. Setting up a first meeting with a new customer through cold calling is a challenging-enough task even without having to ask about bringing a researcher with a video camera to the meeting as well.
But if my first months of data collection in two of our company partners have taught me anything, it’s to never underestimate the wily attitude and the social eye for the game of a salesperson. Not only have some of our sellers used the research project and video recording as an argument to get a face-to-face meeting, but also the company representatives managed to fix up several sales meetings amongst themselves during our steering group session. Also, it’s quite impossible to be a passive observer when following salespeople. From the negotiation table to the golf course and to the interview, the sellers actively challenge us researchers too. I’ve found myself speculating customer behavior after calls or meetings, doing a sales pitch of our own research project, and even analyzing the authenticity of my own interaction in the middle of an interview! But it’s only through challenges that we actually learn. Little by little, I’m getting a better idea of what this sales thing is really about.
Torstai 13.3.2014 klo 17:09 - Timo Kaski
I am excited about the MANIA sales research project which has now started. Thanks to Tekes and our company partners for offering us this opportunity!
This project opens doors to new scientific findings and produces practical results that will benefit numerous companies. This research makes my work so inspiring.
Often, especially in Finland, the challenging nature and multiple dimensions of b-to-b selling are underestimated. Now it is time to look at b-to-b selling as multi-faceted, demanding work that needs to be studied and developed systematically. That is why the MANIA project was started.
In the MANIA sales research project we think b-to-b selling is a multi-person and multi-point, unlinear interaction phenomenon that aims at exchange of value. We study this phenomenon from various perspectives combining numerous research methods in a novel way. Special focus is given on emotions, latent needs and motives influencing b-to-b selling.
In order to achieve the objectives, we have compiled a strong and multi-skilled research group. The researchers present various fields of interest: sales, innovation, organization, interaction and language. Aalto University and University of Helsinki aim at novel methodological and scientific findings whereas HAAGA-HELIA is focusing on applying findings into practice. However, all the research phases are carried out together. Our company partners offer us business insight and access to real-life data along with the whole project.
I am happy to work with this great group of people. So far, discussions have been constructive and very inspiring, continuously bringing new ideas on the table. It’s my role as a project leader to help us to turn all the energy and enthusiasm into concrete results!