ArticlePDF Available


Purpose – The purpose of this study is to develop a sales process framework to facilitate business-to-business (B2B) customer reacquisition. A comprehensive CRM process needs to include reacquisition strategies. Yet, very few firms have formal procedures to guide reacquisition efforts. This gap in the sales process reflects the relatively sparse literature on B2B customer reacquisition models. The present research intends to fill this gap and creates a sales process model to guide salespeople to regain B2B lost customers. Design/methodology/approach – Using critical incident technique (CIT), this study conducted in-depth interviews with 54 B2B salespeople. Each salesperson reported one successful and one unsuccessful reacquisition incidents. A total of 108 critical incidents were collected for analysis. Findings – A four-step sales process model to regain B2B customers was developed and empirically supported, including: Segment lost customers; Assess reasons for loss; Develop reacquisition activities; and Implement reacquisition strategies. Research limitations/implications – This study is qualitative and exploratory in nature; future research should develop dyadic surveys to validate the results. Practical implications – This four-step reacquisition process allows sales firms to identify essential elements and establish protocols/policies to train and motivate salespeople. The framework can facilitate salespeople develop problem-focused solutions to correctly diagnose the situation and effectively re-negotiate with defected customers. Thus, this process may help reduce inefficiency in the reacquisition process and increase reacquisition ratios. Social implications – By considering justice/fairness from customer’s perspective, sales firm may properly recover lost business relationship, and do so in ways that are considered both just and ethical. Originality/value – This is one of the first studies to examine the reacquisition of lost B2B customers. It expands on the traditional sales process to include four steps that enable a sales reacquisition process.
A Sales Process Framework to Regain B2B Customers
Submitted to
Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing
Annie H. Liu*
School of Marketing & International Business
Victoria Business School
Wellington, New Zealand 6140
Office: 644-463-5431
Fax: 644-463-5231
Mark P. Leach,
Department of Marketing & Business Law
Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles, CA 90045, USA
Office: 1-310-338-1906
Richa Chugn
School of Marketing & International Business
Victoria Business School
Wellington, New Zealand 6140
Office: 644- 463-6920
Fax: 644-463-5231
A Sales Process Framework to Regain B2B Customers
A comprehensive CRM process needs to also include reacquisition strategies. Yet few
firms have formal procedures to guide reacquisition efforts. This gap in the sales process reflects
the relatively sparse literature on B2B customer reacquisition models. This research aims to help
fill this gap and creates a sales reacquisition process model whereby salespeople: (1) SEGMENT
lost customers, (2) ASSESS reasons for loss, (3) DEVELOP reacquisition activities, and (4)
IMPLEMENT reacquisition strategies. Using critical incident technique (CIT), this study
conducted in-depth interviews with fifty-four B2B salespeople. Empirical insight is provided
into each of these four stages in the reacquisition process.
Keywords: B2B Customer Reacquisition Framework, Sales Process, Win Back, Attribution,
Justice Theory
A Sales Process Framework to Regain B2B Customers
Sales executives constantly search for opportunities to gain, retain, and grow business
opportunities for their firms. Yet no matter how effective a company's sales process or CRM
program is, inevitably, some customers will defect and switch to other suppliers. Although there
are well-established sales processes and frameworks to guide salespeople when acquiring new
accounts and maintaining customer relationships, there are remarkably few studies or formal
systems in place to guide customer reacquisition efforts. More research exploring reacquisition
strategies and the development of proven frameworks is needed to provide salespeople the tools
to evaluate reacquisition opportunities and execute reacquisition strategies. Left without these
frameworks and tools, salespeople may engage in reacquisition activities that are either
ineffective or inefficient, or worse, they may participate in activities that run counter to the CRM
goals of their sales firm.
The lack of attention paid to reacquisition in the academic literature is also troubling
given the potential importance of customer reacquisition to a firm’s implementation of a
comprehensive sales process and a CRM program. By reacquiring lost customers with the right
reacquisition strategy, sales executives can often facilitate the creation of higher-value
transactions, form stronger bonds, and redevelop highly profitable relationships with these
buying firms. A well-designed reacquisition framework can also aid companies to better
understand their market and competitive position. With the increasing levels of competition and
customer demands, properly integrated reacquisition programs provide opportunities to improve
companies' sales process and help guide their customer relationship management efforts (Liu et
al., 2012; Stauss and Friege, 1999). Strong reacquisition capabilities can become a source of
competitive advantage.
Reacquiring "lost" customers differs from acquiring "new" customers in several key ways.
For example, sales organizations can often leverage departed customers’ transaction histories
(Thomas et al., 2004) that are unavailable with new customers. While customers’ relationship
portfolios will usually include information that can be leveraged, some of the past experiences
and relationships may be deterrents to reacquisition. Accordingly, salespeople may need to
counter strong negative attitudes or repair a relationship before any reacquisition initiatives can
be successful. Furthermore, losing a customer to better pricing or value efforts requires a
different reacquisition strategy than losing one after a service failure or other detrimental
challenge to the pre-existing relationship. Most of all, reacquiring any lost customer often
involves reactivating the customers' switching behavior. Since customers' decisions to switch
back typically require a reassessment of a supplier’s relative value of the offering as well as the
relative value of past relationships, salespeople need to assess their windows of opportunity and
persuade customers to “switch back” from the replacement supplier.
Contributing to the marketing and sales literature, this study intends to develop a B2B
sales process framework to facilitate the reacquisition of lost customers. We believe this research
is one of the first to empirically investigate sales activities pertaining to reacquisition efforts in
B2B sales organizations. The results of this paper will provide new insight and information to aid
B2B sales executives to: (1) systematically conduct customer defection analyses by identifying
and segmenting types of lost customers and critically assess defection attributions, and (2) design
reacquisition efforts by selecting and implementing appropriate tactics and strategies.
Literature Review
In B2B sales, both the buyers and sellers are engaged in a value co-creation process for
economic exchange (Dixon and Tanner, 2012). These exchange and sales processes are complex,
dynamic, and constantly evolving. As the marketplace becomes increasingly competitive and
customers more value conscious, relationships and loyalty may not sustain. In addition, changes
in a customer’s cost structure, personnel, purchasing motivations and goals, changes in the sales
organization’s personnel and process, and competitors’ actions can strengthen or deteriorate an
established relationship (Dwyer et al., 1987). Since salespeople often manage customer loyalty
in B2B relationships, salespeople play a vital role in reducing customer defection, regaining
business, rebuilding value, and repairing relationships (Palmatier et al., 2007; Johnson et al.,
CRM literature consistently demonstrates the benefits of customer retention, including
financial, attitudinal (e.g., brand preference, positive WOM) and behavioral (e.g., repeat purchase
and referral) (e.g., Reichheld, 1993; Page et al., 1996; Liu et al., 2005). Although the ultimate
goal of CRM is to retain all profitable customers and expand the lifetime value of each customer,
organizations realize a "perfect retention" record is impossible. In response, a body of research
exploring the reacquisition of lost consumers has developed. Specifically, previous studies have
examined competitive pricing, elapsed time, and SLTV (Thomas et al., 2004), relative social
capital and regret (Tokman et al., 2007; Liu et al., 2012), attribution theory (Delela, 2009), justice
perceptions (Homburg et al., 2007), and the influence of cultural norms (Liu et al., 2012) to
regain lost customers.
Recognizing the significant impact of customer defection on overall CRM goals, Stauss
and Friege (1999) present a framework for comprehensive customer management for the
prospect, existing, and lost customers. They identify five types of lost customers (defectors)
based on the prototype of the relationship dissolution including: the bought away, pulled away,
unintentionally pushed away, moved away, and intentionally pushed away customers (see details
in the conceptual framework section). They stress the importance of identifying profitable
customers through two-way communications and segmentation data.
Literature on service recovery has often applied attribution theory, equity theory (Adams,
1963), and justice theory (Tax et al., 1998) to examine antecedents to recovery and customer
reactions (e.g., Hoffman and Kelley, 2000; Gonzalez et al., 2005). This literature has focused on
customer attributions of service failure (e.g., Swanson and Kelley, 2001), failure typologies and
recovery efforts (e.g., Johnston and Hewa, 1997; Gonzalez, et al., 2010), recovery evaluations
and strategies (e.g., Hoffman and Kelley, 2000), customer complaining behavior (e.g., Keaveney,
1995), and relationship selling and service recovery management (Gonzalez et al., 2005;
Gonzalez, et al., 2010). In general, justice theory and equity theory aim to compare the input
with the outcome. Specifically, justice theory may help evaluate the perceived fairness of win
back offers, reacquisition process, and personal interaction to ensure successful reacquisition
Development of the Reacquisition Sales Process
One of the oldest and most fundamental models within the sales discipline is the seven
step selling process (Moncrief and Marshall, 2005). Traditionally, this selling process consists of:
(1) prospecting, (2) pre-approach, (3) approach, (4) presentation, (5) overcoming objections, (6)
closing, and (7) follow-up activities (Dubinsky, 1980; 1981). Given the rapidly changing sales
environment, there have been numerous calls for modernizing and enhancing this process. For
example, Marshall, Moncrief, & Lassk (1999) identify new selling activates stemming from
technology use. Moncrief and Marshall (2005) propose an updated selling process that takes into
account a relationship selling approach centering on assessing and creating value while utilizing
databases to facilitate the sales process. Plouffe, Nelson, & Beuk (2013) argue that refinement of
the sales process is most needed in the later stages as competition becomes more formidable and
selling cycles are elongated. They develop and test a model that incorporates negotiation
practices into the sales process. While these studies all enhance our understanding of what
today’s salespeople do to facilitate sales, they only examine a sales process that spans from
prospecting, to customer acquisition, to account management. They do not examine lost
customers and the process of reacquisition. Because reacquisition activities are likely very
different from acquisition activities, a comprehensive sales process needs to include the
examination of reacquiring lost customers (Stauss and Freige, 1999). To this end, we develop a
framework of the reacquisition sales process.
Integrating consumer defection and service recovery literature (Stauss and Friege, 1999;
Gonzalez et al., 2005) with our critical incident interview findings, we develop a reacquisition
sales process framework (see Figure 1). This framework consists of two phases (i.e., the
Evaluation phase and the Action phase), and four steps (i.e., segment defectors, assess
responsibilities, develop reacquisition activities, and implement reacquisition strategy). The two
steps in the evaluation-focused phase require sales executives to conduct a customer defection
analysis to gain insights of who the defectors are and why they left. The results of first two steps
are subsequently integrated into designing appropriate reacquisition efforts. The two steps in the
action-oriented phase allow sales executives to map out what reacquisition strategy to undertake
and how to implement activities in order to help ensure effective reacquisition efforts. These two
phases and resulting four steps are briefly elaborated on below.
Place Figure 1 about here
The Evaluation Phase Defection Analysis
The main purpose of customer defection analysis is to help sales executives
systematically evaluate the patterns of defected customers. By classifying defectors into one of
the five typologies, sales executives can objectively deal with the lost customer by focusing on a
defection prototype rather than the loss or setback. Furthermore, by first identifying the defection
pattern, sales executives can more objectively assess customers reasons for leaving. Since not all
defected customers share same concerns, this objective assessment of defectors will aid
salespeople to assign priorities and design effective win back strategies.
Step I: Segment Defectors Base on Reason for Switching. Recognizing the significant impact of
customer defections on overall CRM goals, Stauss and Friege (1999) develop a framework for
analyzing lost consumers of services. They suggest first segmenting lost customers by the reason
for their defection. Integrating Stauss and Friege's (1999) typology with findings from our
critical incident interviews, we identify and compare five types of B2B lost customers in the
following section.
1. The bought away customers are often on the lookout for cheaper price. As a result, they
are vulnerable to competitive pricing and seldom commit to a long-term relationship.
Since they can be easily lured away by competitor's lower price, bought away customers
can also be bought back with competitive pricing. However, our findings suggest that the
critical issue for the sales firm to consider when regaining this type of customer is:
whether it will stay around long enough to be profitable, and if it is worthy to play the
"price war" game with competitors. As such, to successfully regain and retain business, it
is necessary that the sales firm develop program to lock in the deal-prone customers.
2. The pulled away customers usually seek better value proposition from alternative
suppliers and look for competitive offers with higher benefits and/or lower costs. The
pulled away customers are strategy-driven and will collaborate with suppliers closely to
co-create better value for the long run. Although they may seem demanding or particular,
they are less deal-prone. Therefore, our findings reveal that the main issue to recapture
the pull away customers is to co-develop value proposition that is unique and sustainable.
3. The unintentionally pushed away customers departed due to mistreatment or negligence.
It is imperative that sales executives apologize for the mistakes to neutralize negative
sentiments before making amends. The unintentionally pushed away customers often
experienced service/product failures, as such, many tactics for service recovery including
compensations, reimbursements, and discounts are relevant and diagnostic to regain their
business. However, findings from our in-depth interview show that when customers
experienced severe or repeated mistakes, a sales firm may need to wait for customer
and/or internal personnel changes before regaining is possible.
4. The moved away customers have no needs or no longer see value in the product/service
offerings. The moved away customers may physically move to different areas that
company can't serve, or they may in-source or internally manufacture products. Several
sales executives noted that although this group of customers may seem lost for good,
making sure relationships end positively is important for referrals and WOM.
5. The intentionally pushed away customers are problematic or unprofitable customers and
the company no longer want their business. Various salespeople commented that the art
of dealing with this group of customers include letting them fire themselves and leading
them to competitors that may have better match for their needs. Again, positive
relationship dissolution will help sales firms maintain positive brand image.
Step II: Assess Responsibility and Reasons for Loss. In addition to the five prototypes, when
evaluating lost B2B customers, it is critical to understand why they left and the specifics of the
situation that lead to the defection. As such, a second step in the defection analysis is attributional
in nature -- who/what is responsible, will it happen again, and can it be prevented?
Although salespeople tend to make attributions of successes primarily to internal factors
(DeCarlo et al., 2007), in failure situations, salesperson attributions have been found to be related
to both internal and external factors (Dixon, Spiro, and Jamil 2001; DeCarlo et al., 2007). Dixon
and Schertzer (2005) find that whether a salesperson intends to overcome failure by increasing
effort, seeking assistance, or changing strategies will depend on the attributions he or she makes.
Attribution theory helps salespeople identify the cause associated with customer defection. This
process involves the sorting through of various information cues and results in an attribution.
Integrating attribution theory, the attribution process involves a judgment about whether the
cause is something internal or external (Gilbert, 1995), reoccurring or non-reoccurring, and
controllable versus uncontrollable (Weiner, 1980).
Attribution theory can help inform the evaluation of customer defection. Analyzing causal
inferences and interpretations of defection attribution can help sales executives better understand
some of the hurdles they may face with customer recovery. Past literature suggests that
salespeople make attributions about the causes and will work toward achieving a successful
outcome (Dixon et al., 2001). A systematic attribution analysis will help sales executives gain
insights into the reasons customers defected. Specifically, findings from our critical incident
interviews show that the attribution analysis help direct attentions to:
1. Source: the responsible party may include internal source (e.g., the sales executive, sales
firm), or external source (e.g., customer, competitor, or environment). When the source
of customer defection mainly came from sales executive or firm, an internal evaluation
need to take place to correct mistakes.
2. Stability: If the cause of defection is likely to reoccur (i.e., stable), then it's critical for
sales executives to develop solutions/schema and learn from the situation.
3. Controllable/Preventable: If the cause of customer defection is controllable or
preventable, sales executive are likely to look for cues from future events and take
The Action Phase Reacquisition Efforts
Taking into account the reasons and causes of the customer defection enables salespeople
to develop and execute their reacquisition efforts. These efforts most likely require getting
customers to reevaluate their previous decision to leave, reassess relative value among suppliers,
and switch back from a replacement supplier. As such, when planning their reacquisition
strategy, salespeople must not only have a full understanding of what activities, capabilities,
assets are available to them, but must also keep in mind the process by which these can be
leveraged to facilitate positive reassessment by the customer. Therefore, this phase involves
salespeople determining the appropriate reacquisition activities and their potential effects on the
prospective lost customer. We integrated justice theory including three component: distributive,
procedural, and interactive justice for effective implementation of reacquisition strategy (Tax et
al., 1998).
Step III: Develop Reacquisition Activities and Capabilities. Depending on the types of service
failures, service recovery literature suggests several effective recovery activities. This includes:
apology, price-related concessions (e.g., discounts, compensations, reimbursements), and no
action (Gonzales et al., 2005). In addition, our findings show that reacquisition process requires
sales executives to re-approach and re-negotiate with defected customers. As a result, this
process facilitates co-creation with and customization for buyers. Past research observes that
customization process enables the development of more customer-oriented products/services
which resulting in greater customer satisfaction (Saxe and Weitz, 1982) and more favorable
perceptions of service quality (Parasuraman et al., 1988). This type of customization process is
also likely to evolve into boundary-open transactions allowing the buyer and seller to re-engage
and share feelings with one another (Mars and Nicod, 1984). As a consequence, better
communication, improved processes, and/or new capabilities and expertise are developed, and
relationships are re-energized.
Additionally, several sales executives reveal the importance of active waiting -- a
process to re-engage with customers even if they are not ready to switch back. The purpose of
active waiting is to position the sales firm on the consideration set for the customer's next
buying cycle. As important, active waiting may assure customer's return when the incumbent
supplier falls short on performance.
Step IV: Implement Reacquisition Strategy. Justice theory is mainly concerned with fairness
connected to the implementation of an act, such as win back activities. Perceived justice
comprises three components: distributive justice, procedural justice, and interactional justice, and
suggests that implementing win back efforts should take into account win back offer, process,
and the human interaction elements (Tax et al., 1998).
1. Win Back Offer -- Integrating Distributive Justice
Distributive justice focuses on the specific outcome of the firm's reacquisition effort. As
such, the sales firm win back offer may include price discounts and product/service
customization (Hoffman and Kelley, 1996).
2. Reacquisition Process -- Incorporating Procedural Justice
Procedural justice focuses on the process, procedure, and system that facilitate the final
outcome (Greenberg, 1990). Therefore, to effectively implement reacquisition strategies,
sales executives need to consider improving process and management approach, and
develop capabilities and expertise to adapt to the customer's needs.
3. Human Interaction -- Considering Interactional Justice
Interactional justice involves with interpersonal activities in delivering win back offer and
executing reacquisition process (Tax et al., 1998). A sales executive's communication
and relationship skills, attitude and willingness to resolve the situation (e.g., apology,
"active waiting") can contribute to positive interactional justice.
The goal of this research is to develop a framework illustrating how sales executives
attempt to reacquire lost customers. In order to gain in-depth knowledge of the customer
reacquisition, we conducted critical incident in-depth interviews. Critical incident technique
(CIT) involves the use of specific stories and examples (i.e., incidents) that are content analyzed
with the purpose of uncovering emergent themes, patterns and categories. As a qualitative
methodology, CIT has been found to be particularly valuable at identifying categories and
typologies (Bitner et al., 1990). Respondents for this study are B2B salespeople identified from a
convenience sample developed from a major university’s network in New Zealand. Therefore,
our unit of analysis is a reacquisition incident. We pre-screened respondents to ensure that
appropriate and knowledgeable individuals were selected to participate in the interviews
(Johnston et al., 1999). No attempt was made to identify salespeople in specific industries.
Therefore, there is ample variability with respect to the good-service make-up of the products
sold and the degree of product customization required by customers. Each followed the same
interview protocol.
We used CIT to investigate reacquisition evaluations by asking industrial salespeople to
describe in as much detail as possible two incidents: an incident where they successfully
attempted to win back a lost customer and an incident where they were unsuccessful. Probing
questions followed to have respondents discuss the past working relationships, the reasons
customers left, the processes and resources used to facilitate the reacquisition effort. Once the
story was captured, we asked the respondents to reflect upon any aspects that helped or hindered
the process and if they would have done anything differently. Finally, we asked respondents to
compare the differences between winning-back lost customers and acquiring new customers.
Following the guidelines of CIT, the number of interviews was not predetermined, instead, it was
determined by emerging common themes and repetition of information (Bitner et al., 1990). All
critical incident interviews were conducted person-to-person and were transcribed and coded in
NVivo 9. Interpretations of the data were discussed, reviewed, and agreed upon among co-
authors before results were finalized to report in this study.
Sample Characteristics
A total of fifty-four salespeople were interviewed generating one-hundred and eight
useable critical incidents for evaluation. Seventy-six percent (76%) of respondents were male.
On average, respondents were 39 years old and had over 10 years of working experience. Fifty-
five percent (55%) of the sample had a Bachelor’s degree with 6% having a Master’s or higher.
Forty-three percent (43%) of the respondents were selling a business service. The official job
titles of respondents include: Owner, CEO, Vice President, Managing Director, Head of
Corporate Sales, General Manager, Deputy Managing Director, Operations Director, Director of
Sales Capability, Executive Director, Business Development, Sales Manager, Account Executive
/ Manager, Sales Consultant, Sales Representative, Marketing Representative, Risk Adviser,
Team Leader and Sales Promotion Executive.
The framework represents what salespeople do when reacquiring lost customers.
Practically, all scenarios provide strong evidence that salespeople assess reason for defection and
strategically think through the best strategy to facilitate reacquisition. Given the in-depth
findings of the qualitative data (and for brevity sake in this paper), we present the following 5
examples corresponding to 5 types of defectors to illustrate how each step is adopted by the sales
Example 1: Bought Away Customers
Step 1: Segment defectors based on reason for switching. Many customers can be bought away
by competitors by offering a better price. Our study showed many examples of such a scenario.
For instance, Director of a building supplies company recalled that he lost a major account
mainly due to price competition. He stated:
“The customer left purely because of price. I don’t think we’ve let them down in terms of
the product, the way we’ve made it, the delivery, you know… I always felt that they were
satisfied. And probably in the end, at a certain point our price may have been a little bit
out of kilter, our opposition might have had some cheaper timber…and all of the sudden
they can beat you in the market place, and so I really do think it’s more to do with price
than anything else.
Step 2: Assess responsibility and reason for loss. The customer defection can be attributed to
competitor (i.e., external source). In a price-driven market place, such situations were likely to
reoccur (i.e., stable source) and the competitor might decide a threshold to stabilize the price (i.e.,
uncontrollable/unpreventable). As such, the attributional analysis showed that the competitor
threat was eminent and persistent.
Step 3: Develop reacquisition activities and capabilities. As this was a major customer, the seller
tried to win back the customer by waiting and researching the current trend. They devised their
reacquisition by:
...enough intelligence gathering information which came back to say, well, things
weren’t quite as good as they appeared to be to start with…there have been few shortages
and maybe they’ve been let down. We tried to figure out what’s really going on and
becoming their best friend again…it started with a phone call.”
Thus, this scenario showed that the supplier incorporated active waiting (by gathering
information), and better communication to redevelop relationships and to improve processes.
Step 4: Implement reacquisition strategy. The sales executive implemented the reacquisition
strategy by integrating the elements of procedural and interactional justices and focused on
keeping in contact and becoming a best friend with the customer. Overall, “cost to serve” was
also critical, as the sales executive stated:
...maybe in the time when he started to drift away, when he made his decision that he
could save money by buying it differently, if we had been a little more attentive and
promoted ourselves. But if you burn too much money promoting yourself, promoting...
we’ve not got anything really new to offer, so it’s just a matter of servicing that job.”
Example 2: Pulled Away Customers
Step 1. Customers can also be lured away due to competitor's better value offerings. For instance,
sales specialist at a telecommunication service provider mentioned:
“Customer was a small business and previously left for a better offer. About 12 months
after that we started talking about what we needed to do in order to win them back.
Step 2. Further analysis shows that the cause of customer defection is due to competitor having
better value proposition. The cause may likely to re-occur because of the technology
advancement and better ways of providing service from the competitor. The attributional analysis
shows that the customer is value-focused and strategy-driven.
“And they had a bunch of technical requirements that needed to be met. The agreement
was that if we could meet these requirements they would give their entire business back…
we talked about it and after 2 or 3 meetings they came back… because we started to meet
all their needs and did things as they wanted to happen… It wasn’t difficult to meet
requirements. Not too costly and was relatively simple to win back”
Step3. Under this situation, the sales executive applied active waiting to re-engage the
relationship. The sales firm also developed capability and customized services per the client’s
needs and requirements.
Step 4. The sales executive implemented the reacquisition strategy by customizing services (i.e.,
distribution justice), developing capability required by the client (i.e., procedural justice), and
with better communications (i.e., interactional justice).
Example 3: The Unintentionally Pushed Away Customers
Step 1. There are situations when the customers are inadvertently mistreated or ignored. Such
customers are unintentionally pushed away due to unforeseeable actions of the sales executive or
the sales firm. Highlighting the mistreatment of a client, a Sales and Promotions Executive of a
media company stated that:
“The customer left due to a planned and paid for street activation at a retail store that
never took place because of bad communication. This was the start of their summer
activations and product sales. The issue arose when the local region did not show up at
the event with the activation and promotional staff. The information and booking was
never passed onto the local region because our Network staff member was away sick...
Step 2. The customer defection can be attributed to the sales executive and the sales firm. The
sales firm seemed to take the responsibility for the mistake, and wanted to ensure that such
incident would not reoccur. The unfortunate cause of customer defection in situation like this
was preventable, and firm usually had ability to control such events by due diligence.
Step 3. The firm's win-back activities included apologizing and taking full responsibility of the
event, in addition to offering the client a special customized offer.
As you could imagine, the client was less than impressed and stripped all promotional
and marketing services with the company. However, due the strong sales/client
relationships, we simply emailed, rang and apologized to the client for the mistake and
took full responsibility…”
Step 4. The implementation of win back in this scenario took into consideration the distributive
and interactional justice elements. Clearly, the firm relied on the strong relationship with the
client which helped in communicating the apology in the right manner acceptable by the client
(human interaction), along with providing special offers to “make good” to resolve the problem.
To gain back the relationship, we offered them two more on site activations at a location
of their choice at no cost i.e. a make good.”
Example 4: The Move Away Customers
Step 1. There are often segments of customers who ‘move away’, either physically move away or
start the manufacturing/service in-house. The sales process framework for customer re-
acquisition in such cases is quite different. For instance, a Sales Representative of a food-
manufacturing firm described:
“The customer felt it was more economical to make this product themselves at a time
when they are more able to. They had the labor to and they could cut costs... By
evaluating the size of the company and the amount of product we had been selling to this
customer and we felt like we’d taken quite a big hit. It was definitely worth pursuing
Step 2. The cause of defection was due to customer manufacturing products by itself. Depending
on customer's production capabilities, the customer may continue to create and produce the
desired product as economically and efficiently. The attributional analysis shows that the
customer has strong capacity for growth.
Step 3. Even though such “move away” customers are quite difficult to re-acquire, some may be
major accounts (like in the present scenario). The sales executive was actively waiting and
communicating with the client for future reacquisition.
“We offered them an alternative style, like a USP, they could sell. We couldn’t sell the
product at a reduced price however. We still haven’t been able to win them back but
they’ve left the door open. But there may be times in the future when they may need our
services and may look to us as their preferred supplier.”
Step 4. This case also highlighted the distributive and interactional justice to resolve the problem.
However, since the situation is out of control of the firm or sales executive, all their efforts failed
to reacquire the customer. On the positive note, they still left communication channels open, in
case the client decided to out-source the production again in the future.
Example 5: The Intentionally Pushed Away Customers
Step 1. There were few examples of companies trying to intentionally push away customers as
well. For instance, Marketing Manager of a food supplement manufacturer recalled that:
The reason, which also will help explain why he left us, is because we were losing
interest in him, and therefore trying to get rid of him in a certain way… Because he was
such a small account, and very unpredictable with his orders, he was becoming more of a
burden for the company, so I remember deciding to reduce the amount of advertising we
would send him, and eventually the client just stopped ordering from us.”
Step 2. Customer defection in such situation is mainly attributed to the sales organization, as they
do not think that the customer is profitable enough in relation to the costs to serve them.
Step 3. Rather than having a win-back strategy, in such situations company plans a termination
strategy. As the sales executive reduced the marketing collateral sent to the client and eventually
letting the client fire themselves.
Step 4. Although there was no reacquisition strategy, the executive focused on interactive justice
and let the client fire themselves.
Managerial Implications
Although CRM literature historically emphasizes best practices/process to acquire and
retain customers, effective sales organizations must not only contend with customer acquisition
and retention but also deal with lost customers and the process to reacquire them. To this end,
the current study constructs a sales reacquisition process framework by integrating literature from
consumer defection, attribution theory, service recovery strategies, and justice theory. The
findings show that customer reacquisition is an integral part of customer relationship
management and that analyzing and resolving customer defection is an important CRM issue.
The results provide strong support for the B2B sales reacquisition process framework and suggest
that sales executives need to manage customer reacquisition with a systematic process.
More specifically, findings from the critical incident interviews highlight the critical
nature of accurately diagnosing losses in order to execute reacquisition efforts. The reacquisition
framework illustrates that effective customer reacquisition requires systematic planning and
execution; it consists of four important steps: segmenting defectors, assessing responsibility,
developing reacquisition activities, and implementing strategies. This four-step reacquisition
process allows sales firms to identify essential elements and establish protocols/policies to train
and mentor salespeople to successfully re-approach and regain valuable lost customers.
Specifically, step one segmenting defectors assists salespeople identify defectors’
characteristics and categorize defection patterns. By demystifying the defection patterns,
salespeople can better understand customers’ reasons for leaving (step 2). The purpose of step 2
is to assist salespeople objectively evaluate “who is responsible”, “can it be prevented” and “will
it happen again”. This attribution knowledge may facilitate salespeople develop problem-focused
solutions, rather than coping with the loss of customer or business. Additionally, by
understanding the true cause of defection, salespeople may develop their reacquisition activities
(step 3) more strategically. Step 3 lays out various plausible reacquisition activities for
salespeople to consider. By knowing there are combinations of options available, salespeople
may be able to effectively re-negotiate and co-create customer-oriented solutions to regain lost
business. Finally, to rebuild relationships with lost customers take more than just customer-
oriented solutions to achieve substantiate outcome (i.e., distributed justice). Often, what really
matters to customers is how easy or difficult it is working with the sales firm and/or the sales
team again (i.e., procedure justice); and mostly, how they perceive they are treated fairly (i.e.,
interaction justice).
By integrating a sales reacquisition process framework into the existing CRM, we hope to
provide guidance to sales managers to train and motivate salespeople to properly diagnose and
recover lost customers. As such, it is our hope that this framework will be a valuable tool to aid
sales executives reduce inefficiency in the reacquisition process, increase sales reacquisition
ratios, and effectively assess and reacquire lost customers.
Limitations and Future Research
The qualitative and exploratory nature of this research brings with it accompanying
methodological strengths and weaknesses. Although the qualitative critical incident technique
allows for the capture of rich information fundamental to theory development, it is less effective
at delivering findings that are highly generalizable and prescriptive. So while business
practitioners often highly value case-based and qualitative research (Batt, 2012; Johnston, Leach,
and Liu, 1999), we acknowledge its limitations. However, this study can serve to stimulate
interest and further research on this topic.
Specifically, it is our hope that this initial study will stimulate further research examining
the strategies and practices that salespeople use to reacquire lost customers. With further
investigation, generalizable and contextual customer reacquisition frameworks and procedures
can be developed that would allow for the effective training of salespeople and facilitate strategy
development activities among salespeople and sales teams. The development of effective
customer reacquisition sales processes would assist to demystify reacquisition efforts by allowing
salespeople to more objectively and critically examine opportunities and implement tried and true
reacquisition strategies.
Further research examining salesperson resistance, fears, and attributions toward
reacquiring lost customers is also warranted. Many of the sales executives interviewed for this
study expressed having initial reservations about their attempts to reacquire a lost customer. This
was particularly true if there was any negativity or dissatisfaction by the customer. This suggests
that there may be psychological barriers that a salesperson must overcome when attempting to
reacquire customers. These barriers are likely to vary with salesperson attributions pertaining to
the customer defection (Dixon et al., 2001), and associated justice perceptions.
Literature on business-to-business exchange relationships and organizational buying
behavior would also benefit from the examination of reacquisition activities. For example,
several sales executives in our sample emphasized the importance of their ability to leverage past
relationships within the lost customer organization. The existence and strength of positive
relations shaped both their reacquisition analysis and efforts. Understanding the types of
relationships and the position that both advocates and blockers within the buying organization
play within the customer buying center may be critical to successful reacquisition efforts. In our
study we only examined reacquisition from the perspective of the selling firm. Understanding
switching-back behavior from a customer perspective is equally valuable. Thereby, further
investigation into the impact of buying center characteristics and dynamics on decisions to return
to a terminated supplier is warranted.
Lastly, we saw signs signifying the importance of competitive and market variables on the
feasibility and success of reacquisition efforts. More specifically, the more competitive the
market the more important reacquiring lost customers seems to become. Conversely, sales
executives in rapidly growing markets seem less interested in the retention of lost customers as
acquiring new customers is relatively easy. However, in our New Zealand based sample, most
executives were in small and highly competitive markets; thus every potential customer was
highly valued. Consequently, another area deserving of future research would be to examine
differences in the reacquisition sales process across various market and competitive conditions.
Adams, J. S. (1963). Toward an understanding of inequity, Journal of Abnormal and Social
Psychology, 67 (5), 422436.
Batt, P. J. (2012). Measures and measurement: process and practise. Industrial Marketing
Management, 41, 379384.
Bitner, M.J., Booms, B.H., & Tetreault, M.S., (1990). The service encounter: diagnosing
favorable and unfavorable incidents, Journal of Marketing, 54 (1), 71-84
Dalela, V. (2009). A study of relationship repair in a business-to-business context. Published
dissertation, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
DeCarlo, T. E., Agarwal, S., & Vyas, S. B. (2007). Performance expectations of salespeople: the
role of past performance and causal attributions in independent and interdependent cultures,
Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 27(2), 133-147.
Dixon, A. L., Spiro, R. L., & Jamil, M. (2001). Successful and unsuccessful sales calls:
Measuring salesperson attributions and behavioral intentions, The Journal of Marketing, 64-78.
_____ and Schertzer, S. M. (2005). Bouncing back: how salesperson optimism and self-efficacy
influence attributions and behaviors following failure, Journal of Personal Selling and Sales
Management, 25(4), 361-369.
_____ and Tanner, J. (2012). Transforming selling: why it is time to think differently about sales
research, The Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management 32(1), 9.
Dubinsky, A.J., (1980/81, Fall/Winter). A factor analytic study of the personal selling process,
Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 1, 2633
Dwyer, F. R., Schurr, P. H. & Oh, S. (1987). Developing buyer-seller relationships, Journal of
Marketing, 51 (April), 11-27.
Gilbert, D.T., (1995). “Attribution and interpersonal perception,” In A. Tesser (Ed.), Advanced
Social Psychology (pp. 99-147). New York: McGraw-Hill
Gonzalez, G.R., Hoffman, K.D., & Ingram, T.N., (2005). Improving relationship selling through
failure analysis and recovery efforts: a framework and call to action, Journal of Personal Selling
& Sales Management, 25 (1), 57-65
_____, _____, _____, Raymond W. LaForge (2010). Sales organization recovery management
and relationship selling: a conceptual model and empirical test, Journal of Personal Selling and
Sale Management, 30 (3), 223-23.
Greenberg, J. (1990). Organizational justice: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, Journal of
management, 16(2), 399-432.
Hoffman, K. D., & Kelley, S. W. (1996). Guidelines for developing retail recovery strategies,
In Elizabeth J. Wilson and Joseph F. Hair, Jr., (Eds.), Developments in Marketing Science (pp.
123). Phoenix: Academy of Marketing Science.
_____ and _____ (2000). Perceived justice needs and recovery evaluation: a contingency
approach, European Journal of Marketing, 34(3/4), 418-433.
Homburg, C., Hoyer, W. D., & Stock, R. M. (2007). How to get lost customers back?
Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 35(4), 461-74.
Johnson, J. T., Barksdale Jr, H. C., & Boles, J. S. (2001). The strategic role of the salesperson in
reducing customer defection in business relationships, The Journal of Personal Selling and
Sales Management, 123-134.
Johnston, T. C., & Hewa, M. A. (1997). Fixing service failures, Industrial Marketing
Management, 26 (September), 67-473.
Johnston, W.J., Leach, M. P. & Liu, A.H., (1999). Theory testing using case studies in business-
to-business research, Industrial Marketing Management, 28 (3), 201-213
Keaveney, S. M. (1995). Professional services marketing: strategy and tactics, Journal of
Academy of Marketing Science, 23(3), 220.
Liu, A. H., Leach, M. P. & Bernhardt, K. (2005). Examining customer value perceptions of
organizational buyers when sourcing from multiple vendors, Journal of Business Research, 58
(5), 559-568.
Liu, A.H., Wang, S. & Leach, M.P., (2012). Considering Culture to Win Back Customers:
Comparing Chinese and American Consumers, Journal of Customer
Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, 25, 149-158
Mars, G., & Nicod, M. (1984). The world of waiters. London: Allen & Unwin.
Marshall, G.W., Moncrief, W.C., & Lassk, F.G. (1999). The current state of sales force
activities, Industrial Marketing, Management, 28, 87 98.
Moncrief, W.C., & Marshall, G.W., (2005). The evolution of seven steps of selling, Industrial
Marketing Management, 34 (1), 13-21
Page, M., Pitt, L., & Berthon, P. (1996). Analyzing and reducing customer defections, Long
Range Planning, 29(6), 821-834.
Palmatier, R. W., Scheer, L. K. & Steenkamp, J. E.M. (2007). Customer loyalty to whom?
Managing the risks of salesperson-owned loyalty, Journal of Marketing Research, 44 (May),
Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V. A., & Berry, L. L. (1988). SERVQUAL, Journal of retailing,
64(1), 12-40.
Plouffe, C.R., Nelson, Y.H., & Beuk, F., (2013). Testing an enhanced process-based view of the
sales process, Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 33 (2), 141-164
Reichheld, F. F. (1993). Loyalty-based management, Harvard business review, 71(2), 64-73.
Saxe, R., & Weitz, B. A. (1982). The SOCO scale: a measure of the customer orientation of
salespeople, Journal of marketing research, 343-351.
Stauss, B. & Friege, C., (1999). Regaining service customers, Journal of Service Research, 1
(14), 347-361
Tax, S. S., Brown, S. W. & Chandrashekaran, M. (1998). Customer evaluations of service
complaint experiences: implications for relationship marketing, Journal of Marketing, 62
(April), 60-76.
Thomas, J.S., Blatiberg, R.C. & Fox, E.J., (2004). Recapturing lost customers, Journal of
Marketing Research, 41 (1), 31-45
Tokman, M. D., Davis, L. M. & Lemon, K.N. (2007). The WOW factor: creating value through
win-back offers to reacquire lost customers, Journal of Retailing, 83 (1), 4764.
Weiner, B., (1980), Human Motivation. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
... In addition, papers have aggregated CLV to the salesperson level and predicted the salesperson lifetime value (SLV) (Farías et al. 2017;Kumar et al. 2014). 1 Lastly, firms have increased their efforts to win back lost customers (Kumar et al. 2015;Vomberg et al. 2020) which represents an essential task for salespeople (Liu et al. 2015). We found three papers that support salespeople in prioritizing defected customers for reacquisition activities (Thomas et al. 2004;Kumar et al. 2015;Gerpott and Ahmadi 2015). 2 They employed archival B2C data to predict customers' reaquisition likelihood. ...
... Similar to the previous use case, the applicability of customer reacquisition likelihoods is not limited to the sales context, but highly relevant for salespeople(Liu et al. 2015) and thus included in our study. ...
... Today's marketplace is becoming increasingly erratic, and sales executives are constantly on the search for ways to grow business opportunities and boost profitability and market performance for their firms (Liu et al., 2015). To achieve these, businesses must modernize and enhance their sales process (Liu et al., 2015). ...
... Today's marketplace is becoming increasingly erratic, and sales executives are constantly on the search for ways to grow business opportunities and boost profitability and market performance for their firms (Liu et al., 2015). To achieve these, businesses must modernize and enhance their sales process (Liu et al., 2015). Sales process represents a series of steps required to create superior customer value, deliver customer experience, and boost sales performance (e.g. ...
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to understand marketing–sales–service (M-S-S) interface from the point of how social media marketing (SMM) platforms are prioritized and associated business-to-business (B2B) sales process influence. This study also seeks to understand whether effective triadic alignment is achieved between marketing, sales and service. Design/methodology/approach This study combines literature review and the analytical hierarchy process model. In total, 30 M-S-S managers of a multinational electronics firm situated in Africa and the Middle East participated in this study. The authors collected data from M-S-S managers during training sessions on marketing, sales, service alignment and SMM role in sales process. Findings In their drive for customer orientation and improved organizational performance, marketing, sales and service managers view understanding the customer as the most important sales process attribute. Considered second most significant sales process attribute is needs discovery, whereas approaching the customer is ranked the least important. From the ratings of sales process attributes evaluation and rankings of SMM platform alternatives, the results show a significant hierarchical influence of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter on sales process. The results also show an enabling influence of SMM activity on M-S-S interface alignment. Research limitations/implications This study has a twofold limitation. First, it explored only one major B2B firm in the electronics industry. Second, only the African and Middle East settings are considered in this study. These limitations could be addressed in future research. Practical implications This paper provides practical insights into how M-S-S managers may leverage social media to enhance customer orientation and boost organizational performance. The use of SMM can help M-S-S managers of the focal firm to predict purchase behavior of customers more accurately and as a result effectively manage and improve sales performance. In that drive of using SMM-based competitive intelligence to deliver superior customer experience and enhance sales performance, B2B marketing-oriented firms can also leverage the interdependence (information sharing and involvement) in the M-S-S interface during the SMM activity to enhance triadic alignment. Originality/value This study contributes to the literature by developing a framework for modeling SMM influence on M-S-S and B2B sales process to deliver superior customer experience and drive business performance.
... As the average sales cycle can take weeks or even months, sellers have a sales pipeline that they need to manage and track steps on each buyer's journey (Guesalaga and Kapelianis, 2015;Liu et al., 2015). When the supplier sends out a quotation per the buyer's request, the supplier recognizes that the buyer's needs can be resolved with their product or service, yielding a sales opportunity in the supplier pre-selection stage. ...
Full-text available
Purpose-Building on the expectancy value theory, the purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of word-of-mouth (WOM) and customer value (i.e. functional value and ease-of-doing-business value) on B2B business performance in the B2B sales process. Design/methodology/approach-The authors develop a framework to understand how B2B WOM and customer value influence supplier sales performance. This model was tested using structural equation modeling with a sample of 220 suppliers on Findings-The empirical findings demonstrate that B2B WOM valence and volume have positive influences on the number of quotations and the number of transactions, respectively. Additionally, B2B WOM volume mediates the relationship between operational performance and the number of transactions. Response rate mediates the relationships between response time and both the number of quotations and the number of transactions, respectively. Originality/value-This study contributes to the industrial marketing of B2B sales on the digital platform by investigating two influencers on sales performance: WOM and customer value.
... Last, service recovery (Gonzalez, Hoffman, Ingram, & LaForge, 2010) and customer reacquisition (Liu, Leach, & Chugh, 2015) are receiving greater attention in the B2B marketplace. To improve the ability of salespeople to mitigate any potential erosion of value, SP communication skills may need to be differentially deployed to address issues related to transactional as opposed to emotional effectiveness. ...
The importance of communication skills of the salesperson (SP) on buyer satisfaction is fait accompli. However, how various facets of listening, along with the core components of SP’s communication (i.e., content and diligence) contribute to the value creation process is poorly understood. The current research presents a conceptual framework to explain these effects and tests the model empirically. The authors conceptualize a framework for how critical aspects of SP’s communication with customers differentially influence imagery versus transactional value creation. This process is explained with an application of the dual process theory. Partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) is employed to test the theorized pathways within a sample of buyers of a large manufacturing firm in the United States. Results exhibit that while various facets of listening differentially contribute to the two value types, the core aspects of SP’s communication mainly effect transactional value creation. Theoretical contributions and managerial implications are discussed.
... Thus, it is of great importance for B2B firms to explore and examine the barriers of SR. Although, there are many studies on service failure and recovery (SFaR) in B2C markets (Choi and Choi, 2014;Harrison-Walker, 2019;Hazée et al., 2017) and a few in B2B markets (Brock et al., 2013;Hübner et al., 2018;Liu et al., 2015;Zhu and Zolkiewski, 2015), none of these have explored the barriers in executing the SR process. This paper addresses this call in B2B markets. ...
Purpose To address service failure issues, scholars have recognized several service recovery (SR) mechanisms. However, there exist many barriers that retard an effective SR process, and those often lead to negative consequences. Although this is a generic problem applicable across markets, it becomes critical in B2B markets, as they deal with high impact and corporate customers. The purpose of this paper is to identify these SR barriers in B2B markets and explore their linkages toward identifying the key driving barriers. Design/methodology/approach A four-phased methodology to address this call in the IT services industry was used. First, the identification phase led to the selection of 27 barriers based on literature. Second, in the prioritization phase, 12 salient barriers were prioritized with the help of an expert panel. Third, in the modelling phase, the total interpretive structural modelling (TISM) technique was used to examine the mutual influences among these barriers toward modelling their linkages using a digraph. Finally, in the classification phase, these barriers were graphically plotted and classified into four quadrants based on their dependence and driving powers by using Matriced Impacts Croisés Multiplication Appliquée á un Classement (MICMAC) analysis. Findings Two strategic barriers, namely, technology obsolescence and poor top management commitment, presented the strongest challenges against effective SR, as they were least dependent on other barriers and exerted strong influence over the operational barriers to executing SR. Practical implications Because the strategic level barriers, exerting strong influence against effective SR, arise from the strategic choices of board and the C-suite, this paper helps them anticipate the recovery-related after effects of their choices, thus helping them in making better decisions. Originality/value This paper contributes to research as it is first of its kind to explore and link SR barriers in B2B markets.
... Thus, it is of great importance for B2B firms to explore and examine the barriers of SR. Although, there are many studies on service failure and recovery (SFaR) in B2C markets (Choi and Choi, 2014;Harrison-Walker, 2019;Hazée et al., 2017) and a few in B2B markets (Brock et al., 2013;Hübner et al., 2018;Liu et al., 2015;Zhu and Zolkiewski, 2015), none of these have explored the barriers in executing the SR process. This paper addresses this call in B2B markets. ...
Purpose-To address service failure issues, scholars have recognized several service recovery (SR) mechanisms. However, there exist many barriers that retard an effective SR process, and those often lead to negative consequences. Although this is a generic problem applicable across markets, it becomes critical in B2B markets, as they deal with high impact and corporate customers. The purpose of this paper is to identify these SR barriers in B2B markets and explore their linkages toward identifying the key driving barriers. Design/methodology/approach-A four-phased methodology to address this call in the IT services industry was used. First, the identification phase led to the selection of 27 barriers based on literature. Second, in the prioritization phase, 12 salient barriers were prioritized with the help of an expert panel. Third, in the modelling phase, the total interpretive structural modelling (TISM) technique was used to examine the mutual influences among these barriers toward modelling their linkages using a digraph. Finally, in the classification phase, these barriers were graphically plotted and classified into four quadrants based on their dependence and driving powers by using Matriced Impacts Croisés Multiplication Appliquée a un Classement (MICMAC) analysis. Findings-Two strategic barriers, namely, technology obsolescence and poor top management commitment, presented the strongest challenges against effective SR, as they were least dependent on other barriers and exerted strong influence over the operational barriers to executing SR. Practical implications-Because the strategic level barriers, exerting strong influence against effective SR, arise from the strategic choices of board and the C-suite, this paper helps them anticipate the recovery-related after effects of their choices, thus helping them in making better decisions. Originality/value-This paper contributes to research as it is first of its kind to explore and link SR barriers in B2B markets.
Purpose The purpose of this study is to examine how and to what extent customer-provider service touchpoints impact business customer perceptions and outcomes in the context of long-term business-to-business (B2B) service relationships. To this end, the authors will assess the chain of effect path for different service touchpoints between business customers and service providers – and the long-term impact both on customer perceptions and financial, behavioral and relational outcomes. Design/methodology/approach Enabled by a five-year panel data set, seemingly unrelated regression model methodology is applied to test the proposed conceptual framework. Data are obtained for a sample of 2,175 B2B insurance service companies between 2013 and 2017. Findings Study results shed light on the significance of the sales force in B2B settings, as one of several key service touchpoints – together with firm expertise, service reliability and excellence – driving robust relationships, profitability and cross-buying. Firm-initiated contacts and tangible touchpoints are proven to be ineffective – even damaging in some instances – in terms of driving business customer perceptions. Originality/value The paper delivers empirical evidence providing insight on how service touchpoints and business customer perceptions have a long-term impact on customer outcomes. This has yet to be addressed in B2B service settings – despite being of vital interest to marketers, as the longitudinal approach of the research aids service firms in gaining a better understanding of company-customer touchpoints and the extent to which different factors have a decisive, lasting impact on B2B customer outcomes.
Reacquiring a lost customer is often easier, faster, and less expensive than acquiring a new customer. Thus, reacquisition activities have become important fundamental aspects of selling. Improving our understanding of the customer reacquisition efforts of business-to-business salespeople is the primary objective of this study. When customers leave, they leave behind a network of personal connections with the supplier. This research examines how assessments of these connections by salespeople relate to salesperson effort and reacquisition success. We distinguish between buying center members who support a salesperson (i.e., advocates) and those who work against the salesperson (i.e., adversaries). A conceptual model is developed and results show that advocates in a customer organization enhance both sales effort and the level of reacquisition while adversaries increase salesperson perceptions of reacquisition difficulty.
Purpose This paper aims to explore the usage of selling influence tactics across prospective customers with differing information-related needs. Design/methodology/approach The research study uses an exploratory critical incident technique (CIT) methodology to identify and examine salesperson influence tactics. Findings This study identifies and explores the use of salesperson influence tactics across three information-based conditions often encountered by salespeople (i.e. information seeking customers, informed customers with information inaccuracies and informed customers making sub-optimal decisions). Regardless of condition, salespeople readily used non-coercive information exchange tactics. Whereas, recommendations and ingratiation tactics were applied by more effective salespeople when interacting with informed customers with information deficiencies. Furthermore, salespeople report executing less effectively with prospects with inaccurate preexisting information and with prospects making flawed or sub-optimal decisions. Research limitations/implications Findings illustrate the need for a renewed focus on salesperson influence tactics, the conditions under which they are effective, and how salespeople adapt their influence tactics to various situations. The exploratory nature of this study limits the generalizability of findings. Practical implications A framework of adaptive selling strategies is proposed to help tackle new challenges faced by B2B salespeople in today’s information intensive market. When interacting with more informed customers, pre-existing information is often inaccurate and incomplete. Thus, salespeople must assess and address these flaws and gaps and can adapt their influence strategies to do so effectively. Originality/value Industrial buyers today have virtually unlimited avenues to conduct extensive research and gain supplier information without the aid of interactions with salespeople. Thus, salespeople often enter sales interactions when their prospects have significantly more information than ever before. By examining salesperson influence techniques in selling situations that vary based on prospective customer preexisting knowledge, this research provides guidance on how selling may need to change in a more information intensive era.
This paper builds upon literature addressing boundary spanners and switching suppliers in order to explore an under-examined aspect of buyer–supplier relationships: how different individuals at multiple organisational levels affect processes by which firms return, or “switch back”, to former suppliers after breaches in their relationships. Our study followed a qualitative approach by applying an abductive research methodology to make sense of 85 semi-structured interviews with executives involved in the erstwhile buyer–supplier relationships that we investigated. We found that supplier switching-back processes (SSBPs) can be understood as constituted by a set of alignments and misalignments between boundary spanners (i.e. top management, purchasing and sales agents, engineers and technicians) in the organisations involved. Thus, peoples' interactions, or lack thereof, directly affect the possibility for buyers and suppliers to restore their severed relationships. We conclude that boundary spanners pursue seven distinct roles during different periods in SSBPs, roles that relate to three identified functions of boundary spanners in such processes. The paper closes by highlighting what our findings imply for business managers, limitations and some possible directions for future research.
Full-text available
The authors acknowledge the history of the Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, contributions of JPSSM editors, and growth in university-based selling centers, indicators of the maturation of the sales field. The field, though, is challenged by boundaries that limit understanding of important research questions; therefore, they propose transforming the current definition of selling to account for growth in knowledge, changes in the sales function, and impact of technology on the sales process. The proposed definition of sales is the phenomenon of human-driven interaction between and within individuals/organizations in order to bring about economic exchange within a value-creation context. By taking the perspective of the customer's value-creation process, the authors challenge scholars to consider the industry context in which sales is occurring as well as the language and metaphors used in selling and sales research. © 2012 PSE National Educational Foundation. All rights reserved.
Marketing theory and practice have focused persistently on exchange between buyers and sellers. Unfortunately, most of the research and too many of the marketing strategies treat buyer-seller exchanges as discrete events, not as ongoing relationships. The authors describe a framework for developing buyer-seller relationships that affords a vantage point for formulating marketing strategy and for stimulating new research directions.
The concept of customer orientation in salespeople is defined, a scale is developed to measure the degree to which salespeople engage in customer-oriented selling, and the properties of the scale are reported. A test of the nomological validity indicates the use of customer-oriented selling is related to the ability of the salespeople to help their customers and the quality of the customer-salesperson relationship.
The service encounter frequently is the service from the customer's point of view. Using the critical incident method, the authors collected 700 incidents from customers of airlines, hotels, and restaurants. The incidents were categorized to isolate the particular events and related behaviors of contact employees that cause customers to distinguish very satisfactory service encounters from very dissatisfactory ones. Key implications for managers and researchers are highlighted.
Many companies consider investments in complaint handling as means of increasing customer commitment and building customer loyalty. Firms are not well informed, however, on how to deal successfully with service failures or the impact of complaint handling strategies. In this study, the authors find that a majority of complaining customers were dissatisfied with recent complaint handling experiences. Using justice theory, the authors also demonstrate that customers evaluate complaint incidents in terms of the outcomes they receive, the procedures used to arrive at the outcomes, and the nature of the interpersonal treatment during the process. In turn, the authors develop and test competing hypotheses regarding the interplay between satisfaction with complaint handling and prior experience in shaping customer trust and commitment. The results support a quasi “brand equity” perspective—whereas satisfaction with complaint handling has a direct impact on trust and commitment, prior positive experiences mitigate, to a limited extent, the effects of poor complaint handling. Implications for managers and scholars are discussed.
The objective of this study was to develop a typology of retail recovery strategies that were amenable to systematic investigation. In pursuit of this objective, this research utilized the critical incident technique to investigate samples of retailers of durable goods (RDG), hotel, and restaurant customers to: (1) identify and classify recovery strategies utilized within each retail sector in response to various customer service failures; (2) assess levels of customer perceived effectiveness associated with each respective recovery strategy; and (3) assess customer retention rates associated with the various recovery strategies.