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Salesperson social media use in business-to-business relationships: An empirical test of an integrative framework linking antecedents and consequences

Abstract

This study presents an empirical test of an integrative framework based on the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology, capturing what drives salesperson social media use in business-to-business relationships and under which circumstances social media use affects customer loyalty. The authors test the framework by drawing on a unique hierarchical dataset with data from three sources (over 30 sales managers, over 150 salespeople, and almost 400 customers). The most important finding is that the social media’s effect on customer loyalty depends strongly on the context. Salesperson social media use increases customer loyalty only for high-status customers and customers with small buying centers.

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Acknowledgements

This article is based on the first author’s doctoral dissertation. The authors thank the JAMS review team as well as Anja Konhäuser, Maximilian Lüders, Dominik Papies, and Dirk Totzek. We also thank participants of the 46th Annual Meeting of Marketing Scholars in the German Academic Association for Business Research (VHB) in Regensburg, Germany, participants of the 45th European Marketing Academy (EMAC) Conference 2016 in Oslo, Norway, and participants of the 24th International Colloquium on Relationship Marketing in Toulouse, France.

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Correspondence to Martin Klarmann.

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Appendix

Appendix

Measurement

Variable IRe
Main constructs
Perceived usefulnessa (salesperson), adapted from Homburg et al. (2010)
Using social media for interacting with customers…
 
…makes our firm more successful.
…enhances long-term customer satisfaction.
…enhances long-term customer loyalty.
…enhances the mutual information flow with my customers.
…makes the information flow with my customers more efficient.
…makes me know my customers better.
…makes me apply my skills and competencies in a better way.
…makes my work easier.
…makes me work more efficiently.
…makes my work more interesting and more diversified.
.57
.64
.69
.61
.77
.68
.82
.72
.77
.73
Perceived ease of usea (salesperson), adapted from Homburg et al. (2010)  
It is easy for me to use social media when dealing with customers.
It is not difficult to use social media for interacting with customers.
After a period of training everyone is able to use social media for interacting with customers.
It takes no great effort to integrate social media into my daily work.
Using social media for interacting with customers is straightforward.
.54
.62
.60
.69
.74
Perceived training and supporta (salesperson), adapted from Homburg et al. (2010)  
My firm supports me in using social media for interacting with customers.
The use of social media for interacting with customers is encouraged by my firm.
I receive hints and tips from my firm how to deal with social media.
My firm helps me to use social media in a more efficient way for interacting with customers.
I have the opportunity to get expert help, if I have problems or uncertainties.
Concerning the use of social media I am supported by my sales manager.
.76
.86
.83
.89
---d
.63
Salesperson social media use (three-dimensional reflective higher-order construct)/Sales manager social media use
Adoptiona (salesperson/sales manager), inspired by Homburg et al. (2010).
Social media are well suited for interacting with customers.
My attitude towards social media is very positive.
Social media are very important for effective customer relationship management.
The use of social media for interacting with customers has many benefits.
.55/.64
.41/.20
.81/.64
.89/.96
Extent of usea (salesperson)
I use professional networks very extensively for interacting with customers.
I use personal networks very extensively for interacting with customers.
I use professional forums and blogs very extensively for interacting with customers.
.20
.60
.70
Time investment (salesperson)
How much time do you spend for social media on average per week (work-related)? (in hours) n/a
Customer loyaltya (customer), adapted from Homburg et al. (2011)
We intend to stay loyal to [company].
We intend to additionally purchase other products and services from [company] in the future.
We say positive things about [supplier] to other people.
.65
.17
.63
Moderator variables IR e
Customer statusa (customer): My company is an important customer of [supplier]. n/a
Size of the buying centerb (customer): How many employees of your company are typically involved in purchasing decisions for products of the firm [supplier]? n/a
Salesperson’s relationship investmentc (customer): How much time has [salesperson] invested in sales support, compared to the competition? n/a
Control variables IR e
Age (salesperson): How old are you? n/a
Gender (salesperson): What is your gender? n/a
Experience (salesperson): Until today, how long have you been doing your job (across companies)? n/a
Adaptive sellinga (salesperson), adapted from Spiro and Weitz (1990)
I am very flexible in the selling approach I use.
I know how to treat different types of customers in selling situations.
I vary my sales style from situation to situation.
.62
.64
.55
Relational customer orientationa (salesperson), Homburg et al. (2011)
In sales conversations, I establish a personal relationship with my customers.
In sales conversations, I show high interest in the personal situation of my customers.
I often talk with my customers about private issues.
I often point out things I have in common with my customers (e.g., common interests, experiences, attitudes).
.30
.39
.76
.73
Functional customer orientationa (salesperson), Homburg et al. (2011)
I ask my customers about their specific performance requirements.
I ask directed questions to determine the specific needs of my customers.
In sales conversations, I actively involve my customers to determine their specific needs.
I focus on functional information which is especially relevant for my customers.
I particularly focus on those benefits of our products and services which are of particular relevance for my customers (e.g., cost savings, ease of use, safety etc.).
.35
.51
.60
.38
.45
I adapt my sales pitch very much to my customers’ interests.
When presenting our products and services, I respond very individually to my customers’ requirements.
.45
.42
I talk with my customers about their objections in a detailed manner.
I ask my customers about the reasons behind their objections.
.44
.52
Customer social media use (three-dimensional reflective higher-order construct)
Adoptiona (customer)
My attitude towards social media is very positive.
Social media are very important for effective relationship management.
The use of social media for interacting with customers has many benefits.
.54
.87
.64
Extent of usea (customer)
I use professional networks very extensively for my job.
I use personal networks very extensively for my job.
I use professional forums and blogs very extensively for my job.
.75
.17
.19
Time investment (customer)
How much time do you spend for social media on average per week (work-related)? (in hours) n/a
Relationship duration with salesperson (customer), adapted from Homburg et al. (2011)
For how many years has [salesperson] been your contact person at [supplier]? n/a
Relationship duration with supplier (customer), adapted from Homburg et al. (2011)
For how many years have you been customer of [supplier]? n/a
Customer satisfactiona (customer), adapted from Homburg and Stock (2004)
On an overall basis, our experience with [supplier] has been very positive.
On an overall basis, we are very satisfied with [supplier].
I am pleased with the customer service of [supplier].
.81
.88
.46
  1. ameasured on a 7-point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree)
  2. bmeasured on a 6-point scale (1 = 1 (you alone), 6 = more than 5)
  3. cmeasured on a 7-point scale (1 = much less, 7 = much more)
  4. ditem dropped due to low reliability
  5. eindicator reliability, indicating the % of variance explained by the construct, equal to the squared factor loading
  6. n/a = not applicable for single-item scales

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Bill, F., Feurer, S. & Klarmann, M. Salesperson social media use in business-to-business relationships: An empirical test of an integrative framework linking antecedents and consequences. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 48, 734–752 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-019-00708-z

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Keywords

  • Social media
  • Salespeople
  • B2B
  • Customer loyalty
  • Technology acceptance
  • Integrative framework