Essays On Developing Sales Talent And Managing Customer Relationships



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This dissertation examines how firms can more effectively develop sales talent through different types of training programs and how salespeople can more effectively develop customer relationships through a distinct type of relationship investment device.

Essay 1 examines whether firms can more effectively onboard newly hired salespeople through a decentralized onboarding program. I leverage a natural field experiment in which a firm’s newly hired salespeople can undergo onboarding through either a decentralized program or a centralized program to examine the relative impact of each program. The findings reveal that salespeople who underwent the decentralized program achieved approximately 23.5% higher sales performance than those who underwent the centralized program. The performance benefits of the decentralized program were amplified for salespeople whose managers had a narrower span of control. In addition, these performance benefits were appreciable for those salespeople transitioning from another job but negligible for those transitioning from school. A scenario-based experiment enriches the field experiment’s findings by showing that a decentralized program can foster an innovative role orientation.

Essay 2 examines whether salespeople can more effectively develop and manage customer relationships through the provision of goodwill. Customers frequently make mistakes throughout the buying process, subsequently asking their salesperson for goodwill to revoke the contractual commitment. For a salesperson, providing such goodwill entails a loss of short-term revenue. However, it is unclear whether goodwill yields positive returns for salespeople in the future and thus whether goodwill can be viewed as a relationship marketing investment. To examine the main effect of goodwill and the contingent effects, I leverage a data set spanning six years with over 57,000 customers from an industrial supplier and estimate panel data models that account for unobserved heterogeneity and dynamics. Results show that salespeople’s goodwill increases relationship performance. Past relationship quality and customers’ relative dependence negatively moderate this effect.



Personal Selling, Sales Force Management, Salesperson Training, Customer Relationship Management, Reciprocity


Portions of this document appear in: Wiseman, Phillip, Michael Ahearne, Zachary Hall, and Seshadri Tirunillai. "Onboarding Salespeople: Socialization Approaches." Journal of Marketing 86, no. 6 (2022): 13-31.