Edited by Gary L. Lilien and Rajdeep Grewal
Kevin Bradford and Barton A. Weitz Salespeople are the principal vehicle through which B2B firms, particularly firms with a complex and differentiated offering, communicate and exchange information with their customers. Wotruba (1991) identifies the following roles for salespeople within a firm’s marketing program: (1) informer; (2) persuader; (3) problem solver; and (4) value creator. In the traditional informer, persuader and problem solver roles, or roles that we collectively refer to as influencer roles, salespeople focus on informing customers about the firm’s products and convincing them that these products and services will satisfy their needs and solve their problems. While salespeople engaged in these influencer roles consider the needs of their customers when developing and implementing sales strategies, the alternatives they present to customers are typically limited to their firm’s current products and services. In response to changes in the market environment, such as increasing customer consolidation, product commoditization and globalization, more emphasis is being placed on the value creator role of B2B salespeople. In the value creator role, salespeople draw on the resources of their firms to develop idiosyncratic solutions for their customers’ problems. Since these offerings are typically unique to a specific customer relationship, it is difficult for competitors to duplicate the offerings, and thus these offerings have the potential for building a long-term competitive advantage for the buyer–seller dyad over competing dyads. However, developing idiosyncratic solutions is risky because the selling and buying firms need to share sensitive information and make investments that are unique to the...
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