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.