Antecedents and performance outcomes of value-based selling in sales teams: a multilevel, systems theory of motivation perspective

Abstract

Firms are increasingly deploying a value-based selling (VBS) approach in their sales organizations to drive growth for new offerings. However, VBS adoption remains challenging, signaling that leaders need guidance to motivate VBS. Drawing from the systems theory of motivation, we examine motivational mechanisms at two levels—salesperson and sales team—to understand how to motivate, and benefit from, VBS. Using multisource data (i.e., salespeople, managers, archival performance) from 70 sales teams in a U.S.-based manufacturing and services provider, our findings illustrate drivers and outcomes of VBS. Specifically, we uncover a framework of salesperson, leader, customer, and team factors that help explain salesperson motivation for VBS. Importantly, we link VBS to customers’ adoption of new products to support VBS’s role for selling new products. Critical for sales team strategy, our model also integrates a team-level motivational mechanism to provide a comprehensive framework for salesperson and sales team motivations and outcomes.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Lam et al. (2019) focus on customer contexts impacting hunting–farming ambidexterity. Similarly, the interplay of leadership (proxy efficacy), group (social support, performance management), and individual traits (goal orientations) help influence service–sales ambidexterity (Yu et al. 2015).

  2. 2.

    We acknowledge that we do not include motivational states and goal generation as mediators in our model between discretionary inputs and goal-striving. However, multiple studies propose direct links between empowering leadership behaviors and sought-after behaviors such as service-oriented citizenship behaviors (Auh et al. 2014) and adaptive selling behaviors (Ahearne et al. 2005). Similarly, meta-analytic results provide robust evidence that regulatory foci predict unique variance in work behaviors after controlling for personality, motivation, and attitudinal predictors (Lanaj et al. 2012). As such, we follow similar work on systems theory that favors a parsimonious theoretical model (e.g., Chen et al. 2007).

  3. 3.

    We thank an anonymous reviewer for contributing this insight.

  4. 4.

    Competitive intelligence (Cronbach’s alpha = .86) was measured with a three-item, seven-point scale (i.e., “I try to gather and transmit reliable information about competitors”; “I always assign myself objectives to obtain information about competitors”; “I ask customers about our competition’s strategies”) drawn from Rapp et al. (2011).

  5. 5.

    It is possible that VBS has an inverted U-shaped effect on customers’ adoption of new products. The rationale is that at very high levels of VBS, salespeople completely focus on the customer’s bottom line, creating value for the customer, but this might involve existing rather than new (and usually more expensive) products. As such, adoption of new products might be hampered at very high levels of VBS. We test this alternative model by entering the squared term of VBS in addition to its main-effect in the model. Although we find that the main effect of VBS is related significantly to adoption of new products (γ = .089, p < .05), the squared term of VBS is not related significantly to adoption of new products (γ = −.001, p > .10).

  6. 6.

    We thank an anonymous reviewer for suggesting these potential process variables.

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Table 5 Measures and factor loadings

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Mullins, R., Menguc, B. & Panagopoulos, N.G. Antecedents and performance outcomes of value-based selling in sales teams: a multilevel, systems theory of motivation perspective. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 48, 1053–1074 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-019-00705-2

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Keywords

  • Value-based selling
  • Systems theory
  • Salesperson motivation
  • Sales teams
  • New product selling
  • Sales performance