Date of Award

8-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Business Administration

Major Professor

Charles H. Noble, Alex R. Zablah

Committee Members

Mark A. Moon, Timothy P. Munyon

Abstract

Common wisdom suggests that persistence is a critical determinant of sales performance and, consequently, salespeople are often advised “don’t take no for an answer.” While the importance of persistence to sales success is seemingly unquestioned (albeit unexamined in the literature), anecdotal evidence suggests that the incremental business generated through salesperson persistence may be tempered – if not overshadowed – by its accompanying costs (e.g., time spent pursuing hesitant prospects). The goal of this research is thus to explore the impact of persistence on salesperson performance. Grounded in social influence theory, this study views sales persistence as a combination of influence tactics salespeople employ in order to shape the thoughts, feelings, and actions of prospects who are hesitant to commit to the firm. To offer insight into the sales performance implications of persistence, this dissertation builds on a mixed methods approach that combines both qualitative and quantitative insight. Study one builds on a grounded theory approach and in-depth interviews with professional salespeople to explore the nature of salesperson persistence behaviors. Study two leverages the insights gleaned from the qualitative work, survey data provided by salespeople and sales managers, and archival performance data to quantify the impact of persistence on sales performance and to elucidate the process through which persistence exerts its effects. Results show that only nurture-focused persistence has a positive effect on both prospecting effectiveness and prospecting efficiency. Furthermore, prospecting efficiency is found to directly contribute to sales performance.

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