Salesperson Intuition: Its Critical Role and Antecedents

Date

2013-08

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Abstract

Salespeople’s ability to accurately assess customer needs is clearly important for successful salesperson-customer interactions. While adaptive selling is a popular sales approach for assessing customer needs, its foundation appears incomplete. Building on thin slices of behavior research from social psychology, the adaptive selling approach is missing a critical component: salesperson’s ability to intuit customers’ shopping intentions. Through two essays, we investigate salespeople’s ability to predict individual customer’s shopping needs prior to the verbal interaction with the customer. We term this ability, salesperson intuition.

In Essay 1, we conduct two studies to investigate both the role and antecedents of salesperson intuition in selling situations with short sales cycles. In study 1, we find that accurately assessing customer needs intuitively and trusting this intuition is critical to sales success. In study 2, we study the origins of accurate intuitive judgments of customer needs and compare it with the origins of accurate judgments based on verbal interactions.

In Essay 2, we investigate how the effects of antecedents of intuition vary at different stages of a salesperson’s career. Specifically, despite the overwhelming power of intuitive judgments as shown in Essay 1, expert intuition research suggests that extensive experience within a particular domain is necessary for the proper utilization of intuition. Employing research from social intuition, expert intuition, and learning goals, we seek to identify mechanisms that firms can use to improve the intuition accuracy of both experienced and inexperienced salespeople.

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Keywords

Intuition, Sales behaviors, Customer needs, Salespeople, Buyer-seller, Retail

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