Knowledge Series

A curated resource of current and recent research that addresses the Research Priorities of the Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute.


Digital Selling: Organizational and Managerial Influences for Frontline

Readiness and Effectiveness

Ryan Mullins & Raj Agnihotri

More and more companies are embracing digital selling initiatives, especially during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, but why are so many of these firms failing to realize their potential? A paper published in 2021 explores digital selling readiness to explain salespeople’s felt-preparedness towards digital selling activities, and offers an assessment tool to ensure alignment between investments in digital assets and a digital-ready sales force.

Read the Executive Summary


Gratitude in buyer-seller relationships: A Dyadic Investigation

Stephanie M. Mangus, Dora E. Bock, Eli Jones & Judith Anne Garretson Folse

What is the role of salesperson gratitude in buyer-seller relationships? Does salesperson gratitude motivate behavior that is beneficial to firms? A study indicates that salesperson gratitude impacts customer gratitude and customer commitment through prosocial behaviors that occur as a result of the salesperson’s gratitude toward the customer. It also finds a significant interaction between the length of the buyer-seller relationship and salesperson extra-role behaviors concerning customer gratitude.

Read the Executive Summary


Examining the effects of mutual information sharing and relationship

empathy: A social penetration theory perspective

Stephanie M. Mangus, Dora E. Bock, Eli Jones & Judith Anne Garretson Folse

A study considers how the content of personal disclosure influences relational and performance outcomes in the salesperson-customer relationship, and shows that customer-felt relationship empathy has a stronger effect on trust in newer relationships, signaling the strength of customer-felt relationship empathy as a relationship-building tool.

Read the Executive Summary


Multichannel Strategies for Managing the Profitability of Business-to-Business Customers

Justin M. Lawrence, Andrew T. Crecelius, Lisa K. Scheer, and Ashutosh Patil

With e-commerce growing rapidly, firms must reconsider their strategic investments in several areas, including salespeople and targeted discounts. This study explores the sales and profit implications of supplementing customers’ online activity with personal contact and one-off price promotions. The researchers offer unique findings that may help sales managers better serve web-dependent customers’ often misunderstood needs.

Read the Executive Summary


Measuring Rank-Based Utility in Contests: The Effect of Disclosure Schemes

Tanjim Hossain, Mengze Shi, and Robert Waiser

Sales organizations can use contests to motivate their employees and improve firm-wide financial performance. But how should companies structure their contests’ prizes and announce their results? In this study, the researchers conduct laboratory experiments to answer these questions. They find that public recognition of sales contest winners motivates salespeople and that this effect is greatest when contest prizes are spread evenly among many winners. “Shaming” non-winners does not seem to drive performance.

Read the Executive Summary

Involving Sales Managers in Sales Force Compensation Design

Ron Waiser

A study uses game theoretic model to show (1) how a firm can efficiently leverage a sales manager’s knowledge and (2) the conditions under which involving the manager is optimal – when designing compensation plans for salespeople who report to them.

Read the Executive Summary

Managing Differential Effects of Salespersons’ Regulatory Foci – A Dual Process Model of Dominant and Supplemental Pathways

Fred Miao, Yi Zheng, Zhimei Zang, Douglas B. Grisaffe, and Kenneth Evans

According to regulatory focus theory, every individual is mainly driven by one of two distinct self-regulatory orientations: a promotion focus or a prevention focus. Existing research has shown salespeople can thrive or struggle depending on how they perceive their environment to align with their self-regulatory orientation. This paper examines two complementary B2B sales job roles to make new regulatory focus theory discoveries and offer businesses practical ways to use the theory to their advantage.

Read the Executive Summary

Open Negotiation: The Back-End Benefits of Salespeople’s Transparency in the Front End

Yashar Atefi, Michael Ahearne, Sebastian Hohenberg, Zachary Hall, and Florian Zettelmeyer

A working paper details an observational study in the automotive industry where customers to whom the salesperson revealed the cost of a car at the beginning of the negotiation spent significantly more in the back end than others. This effect holds only when cost is disclosed at the beginning of the negotiation and when customers can verify the cost information.

Read the Executive Summary

Does Selective Sales Force Training Work?

Yashar Atefi, Michael Ahearne, James G. Maxham III, D. Todd Donavan, and Brad D. Carlson

Companies spend billions of dollars on sales force training every year but the challenges of training an entire sales group force many retailers to selectively train only a subset of their salespeople. A study investigates when selective training can be more effective and what composition of salespeople should be trained to benefit the entire group.

Read the Executive Summary

Navigating the Demands of Increasing Customer Participation Through Firm and Individual Job Resources

Jessica J. Hoppner, Paul Mills, and David A. Griffith

Businesses can improve performance by involving customers in product and service development, but the difficult work of managing customer participation often falls to salespeople. Building on the job demands-resources model, the researchers examine customer participation’s impact on salesperson burnout, as well as a positive outcome, investment in resources. Further advancing extant research, the study examines the role of job autonomy and salespeople’s belief in their innate ability in the customer participation process.

Read the Executive Summary

Continuous Techno-Training and Business-to-Business Salesperson Success: How Boosting Techno-Efficacy Enhances Sales Effort and Performance

Stephen W. Rayburn, Vishag Badrinarayanan, Sidney Anderson, and Aditya Gupta

This study develops and tests a framework to determine how continuous technology training, known throughout the paper as techno-training, can influence critical technology- and sales-related outcomes.

Read the Executive Summary

Wage Transparency and Social Comparison in Sales Force Compensation

Xiaoyang Long and Javad Nasiry

Wage transparency, or informing employees what their coworkers earn, facilitates social comparisons. Some firms benefit from publicizing wages; others suffer. This research explores the optimal conditions for wage transparency and finds it is more likely to benefit firms when demand uncertainty is low, sales outcomes are positively correlated across sales territories, and sales agents can easily collaborate.

Read the Executive Summary

Artificial Intelligence Coaches for Sales Agents: Caveats and Solutions

Xueming Luo, Marco Shaojun Qin, Zheng Fang, and Zhe Que

Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly capable of providing businesses with sales coaches. But AI coaches have their drawbacks. Using three randomized field experiments, the researchers in this study examine the types of employees who benefit most and least from AI coaches. They then draw on the findings to highlight a novel AI-human coach collaborative capable of outperforming either type of trainer alone.

Read the Executive Summary

Examining Salesperson Effort Allocation in Teams: A Randomized Field Experiment

Jia Li, Noah Lim, and Hua Chen

When salespeople with heterogeneous sales abilities are assigned into teams, how do they adjust effort as the abilities of their coworkers change? A working paper examines this question through a randomized field experiment.

Read the Executive Summary

Salesperson Dual Agency in Price Negotiations

Justin M. Lawrence, Lisa K. Scheer, Andrew T. Crecelius, and Son K. Lam

When should business-to-business firms encourage their salespeople to advocate for the customer in pricing negotiations? A new study explores how salespeople should balance customer advocacy and seller advocacy in discount negotiations, and how and when advocacy actions affect outcomes of this process.

Read the Executive Summary

Business-to-Business E-Negotiations and Influence Tactics

Sunil SinghDetelina Marinova, and Jagdip Singh

Businesses send and receive over 125 billion e-mails every day, and surveys indicate that customers increasingly prefer e-communications over other formats. A working paper analyzes e-mails between buyers and sellers and uncovers what really helps companies win contracts through e-negotiations.

Read the Executive Summary

Mobility of Top Marketing and Sales Executives in Business-to-Business Markets: A Social Network Perspective

Rui Wang, Aditya Gupta, and Rajdeep Grewal

Do social ties of top marketing and sales executives (TMSEs) created through their prior work affiliations actually result in improved firm performance? A paper analyses data from the semiconductor industry using a model that corrects for unobserved heterogeneity and endogeneity, and finds that managerial social capital enhances firm performance – while adding that TMSE tenure and firm market orientation are essential for absorbing the benefits of managerial social capital.

Read the Executive Summary

The Interplay Between Business and Personal Trust on Relationship Performance in Conditions of Market Turbulence

Stephanie MangusEli Jones, Judith Anne Garretson Folse, and Shrihari Sridhar

Salespeople invest precious time and energy outside business hours to build deeper relationships with their clients. A recent paper studies the interplay between business and personal trust and the effect they have on customer relationship satisfaction and customer loyalty – as well as investigating how turbulence in the marketplace affects the relationships between business and personal trust on performance in the relationship.

Read the Executive Summary

Sales Channel Integration After Mergers and Acquisitions: A Methodological Approach for Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Robert Palmatier, C. Fred Miao, and Eric Fang

Data over the years indicate that on average, acquirers have less than a 50% chance of success in M&A, largely because of issues with integration. A landmark study used a balanced-scorecard approach for optimally selecting and integrating sales channels after an M&A.

Read the Executive Summary

Organizing for Cross-Selling: Do It Right, or Not At All

Christian Homburg, Sina Bohler, and Sebastian Hohenberg

How can firms leverage factors at the organizational level to improve cross-selling performance?  This new paper offers insights for Chief Sales Officers detailing the relationship that organizational structures, steering instruments, and EBITDA have with cross-selling performance.

Read the Executive Summary