An investigation of presentation style in the rapport building stage of the personal selling process



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The areas of Personal Selling and Sales Management have both received considerable attention and coverage in the Marketing Literature. However, one area largely neglected has been the actual selling process. There is research evidence that similarity between customers and salespersons during the personal selling process produces "better" results (sales) than dissimilarity but the variables used to describe similarity in the research have been relatively static. Thus, the results of the research have been of only limited value to sales managers and sales trainers in "matching" customers and salespersons. The research presented considers PRESENTATION STYLE as a viable means to enhance similarity during sales calls and provide sales managers and trainers with more actionable recommendations. The initial requirement in this regard is a determination that different presentation formats do, indeed, produce "better" results than one presentation format across all situations. This requirement is the major focus of the research presented. That is, do different presentation styles produce better results in different situations than the same style in different situations. The approach used to investigate the research problem involved the use of a slide/script (35mm slides synchronized with a cassette recording) method for operationalizing four different presentation "styles" which form the treatment levels. The design of the presentations was based on a personality measure used in industry which enables the determination of one's most dominant style of four different personal style scores produced by the measure. Subjects were exposed to one level (presentation format) of the treatment and after exposure were assigned to block groups based on their individual scores on the same measure used to design the treatments. This resulted in a 4x4 treatment by block design. Hypotheses tested were based on the overall similarity hypothesis. Simple main effect planned comparisons were considered both across treatment levels for individual subject blocks and within treatment levels across all subject blocks. The results are mixed but offer some support for the notion that presentation style adjustment is a potentially viable means for enhancing sales effectiveness. Future investigation is warranted to further articulate the focus of this research and also to address two additional research questions. Assuming "different" presentations produce better results, it then becomes necessary for salespeople to be able to identify which situation requires which format and adjust the presentation accordingly. The ability to perform these requirements must be established for the approach described to be fully operational as a device to segment customer-salesperson interactions by adjustments in presentation style.