Sales Excellence Institute

Research Priorities

  1. Sales Force Turnover and Retention Issues
  2. Sales Training Effectiveness
  3. Sales Compensation, Incentives and Sales Contests
  4. Maximizing Sales of New Products and Services
  5. Measuring and Monitoring Team Selling Effectiveness
  6. Interface between Sales and Other Functions
  7. Optimal Customer Relationship Management/Sales Force Automation Deployment and Performance
  8. Sales Management, Analysis, Planning, Strategy Implementation, and Quotas
  9. Buyer/Seller Relationships - Customer Satisfaction and Retention
  10. National/Key/Global Account Management
  11. Research Methods, Measurement Issues, and Research Agendas/Frameworks

Research Priority Descriptions

Sales Force Turnover and Retention Issues

Researchers working in the area of salesperson turnover and retention are helping sales organizations respond to the high cost of recruiting and training salespeople. These researchers are particularly interested in the forces that push salespeople to leave their jobs and ways that sales managers can influence salespeople’s intentions to stay with the company.

  • How much does salesperson turnover cost a firm (including lost sales, training costs, etc…)?
  • How should a company prioritize its salespeople? Are some salespeople good enough that they should be retained regardless of the cost?
  • What activities can sales managers engage in to reduce salesperson turnover?
  • How should a salesperson’s immediate supervisors interact with their subordinates?
  • What are the best ways to prevent a departing sales employee from taking his or her customers with him/her?
Sales Training Effectiveness

Researchers working in the area of sales training effectiveness are interested in discovering the effects of different types of training, how trainee characteristics impact the effectiveness of training, and the ROI of training expenditures, among other things.

  • How often should salespeople attend routine training sessions?
  • How much money should a company invest in sales training?
  • How does a salesperson’s career stage impact the effectiveness of training efforts?
  • Is peer coaching more effective than managerial coaching?
  • How should firms train their salespeople to use adaptive selling techniques during customer interactions?
Sales Compensation, Incentives and Sales Contests

Researchers working in the area of sales compensation, incentives, and contests are concerned with understanding and improving the tools that sales managers can use to direct salespeople’s behavior.

  • Is it better for overall sales force performance to design contests with one winner, multiple winners, or a company-wide reward?
  • What characteristics of salespeople facilitate a high level of competitive effort during a sales contest?
  • When are incentives, rewards, and contests harmful to sales performance?
Maximizing Sales of New Products and Services

Researchers working in the area of new product/service sales are driven by the fact that our business environment is increasingly becoming characterized by the introduction of new, innovative products and services. Research in this area often focuses on mathematical models of new product acceptance, salesperson behaviors that affect new product sales, or design aspects of new products or services themselves.

  • How different should a new version of an existing base product be to encourage buyers of the base product to purchase the new version?
  • How can sales managers direct salespeople to exert extra sales effort during a new product launch?
  • How can managers optimally combine a push strategy (using salespeople) with a pull strategy (using advertising and PR) during a new product launch?
Measuring and Monitoring Team Selling Effectiveness

Researchers working in the area of team selling effectiveness are responding to the increasing use of selling teams, often to handle key customer accounts. Research in this area is often concerned with how team size, team member characteristics, and team organization (by division, by area, by function, etc…), among other issues, impact selling effectiveness.

  • Does team selling work better in some industries than others?
  • What characteristics of salespeople help facilitate proper team functioning?
  • How do different types of customers respond differently to selling teams as opposed to individual salespeople?
  • When are selling teams inappropriate?
  • What are the key drivers of sales team effectiveness?
Interface between Sales and Other Functions

Researchers working in this area seek to identify the key drivers of the effectiveness of the functional relationships between the sales department and other functions

  • How do firms resolve the paradox of departmental integration and departmental specialization?
  • What are the critical differences in strategic orientations between sales and other function?
  • How do firms improve inter-departmental coordination?
  • How do firms achieve internal marketing effectiveness?
Optimal Customer Relationship Management/Sales Force Automation Deployment and Performance

Researchers working in the area of sales-technology deployment are responding to the increasing use of new technologies to manage sales calls, schedules, territories, customer accounts, and product information, among other things. These researchers are often concerned with individual salesperson characteristics that impact technology acceptance, company/management characteristics that impact technology acceptance, and the effect of technology acceptance and use on salesperson performance.

  • In what scenarios can new technologies be harmful to salesperson performance?
  • What are the optimal levels of training and support to provide to salespeople during a new technology introduction?
  • What characteristics of salespeople allow them to adapt to a new technology rollout better than others?
  • How relevant are leader behaviors in the sales technology adoption process?
  • How critical is the often neglected role of middle managers during the introduction of a new sales technology?
  • How can sales managers motivate salespeople to use a new sales technology (especially when they have the freedom to decide not to adopt the new technology)?
Sales Management, Analysis, Planning, Strategy Implementation, and Quotas

Researchers working in the area of sales management planning and strategy implementation are concerned with how top management’s ideas and objectives “trickle down” to the sales force. Salespeople span the boundary between the firm, service delivery, and the customers. That is why the sales force is a potential internal bottleneck to the success of strategy implementation.

  • How can a customer-oriented manager sell his employees and salespeople on the importance of adopting a customer-oriented mindset?
  • How does social capital of managers and salespeople influence their performance?
  • How do salespeople sell to organizations with complex buying networks?
  • What is the best way to manage a sales force whose employees are not concentrated in one location?
Buyer/Seller Relationships - Customer Satisfaction and Retention

Researchers working in the area of buyer/seller relationships want to deepen our understanding of issues like customer need identification, customer acquisition, customer retention, customer lifetime value, and word of mouth marketing, among other topics.

  • What impact do satisfied customers have on a firm’s profits?
  • What can a firm do to encourage current customers to tell their friends and family about the firm’s product or service?
  • What are the benefits and risks associated with customer loyalty?
  • What are the short-term and long-term effects of different techniques to resolve buyer/seller conflicts?
  • How can we improve the accuracy of salespeople’s perceptions of customer needs?
National/Key/Global Account Management

Researchers working in the area of key account management study how companies manage their largest, most important customer accounts (these customers are often national or international accounts). Issues in this area range from when to classify a customer as a key account, how to properly service key accounts, and profit implications of successful key account management.

  • How much is too much to invest in maintaining key account relationships?
  • How large should an account be to be considered a key account?
  • How important is strategic fit between a firm and its key accounts?
  • What are the challenges in global sales management?
  • What is the role of national culture, organizational culture, and climate in global sales management?
Research Methods, Measurement Issues, and Research Agendas/Frameworks

Researchers working in the area of research methods and measurement issues want to improve the ability of other researchers to properly use social scientific measurement and analysis to draw managerially relevant conclusions from data. This type of research often focuses on introducing new methods of analysis, clarifying commonly misunderstood research methods, or advocating the increased use of a research method that is particularly well-suited to answer sales-related questions.

  • How do we improve the quality of sales research?
  • How do we improve training of sales researchers?
  • What new research methods are being used in other academic disciplines (psychology, sociology, economics, etc…) and how can they be applied in sales research?
  • Are there any subtle measurement issues that are often overlooked by researchers that need to be brought to light?
  • What are the differences between measuring salesperson performance using salesperson reports, sales manager reports, and objective firm performance data?
  • What untouched topics are fruitful areas for future research?