"I Think I Can…I Think I Can": The Impact of Perceived Selling Efficacy and Deal Disclosure on Salesperson Escalation of Commitment

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Publication Date

Summer 7-2015


Salespeople have considerable autonomy in the choices they make with respect to both the types and amounts of resources they deploy in pursuing potential customer accounts and specific sales opportunities. Building from a prospect theory framework and also leveraging self-justification theory, this research reports the results of three experimental studies conducted on practicing salespeople. The experiments help shed light on several factors that might influence a critical form of salesperson resource allocation decision — the allocation of the salesperson's own ‘selling time’ which is devoted to a specific sales opportunity. Study 1 establishes that an escalation of commitment effect exists when salespeople pursue a new customer opportunity, and that “competitive intensity” is a key variable that attenuates the escalation of commitment effect. Study 2 demonstrates that a salesperson's “selling efficacy” – or their confidence in their abilities and decision-making in sales – has important, but mixed, effects on the salesperson's allocation of scarce resources. Finally, study 3 broadens this research by showing that environmental factors such as the extent to which the salesperson has ‘disclosed’ their pursuit of a new sales opportunity within their own organization can also influence the escalation of commitment effect on how they allocate resources in pursuit of that business. The article's broader contribution is that it offers an overdue and preliminary glimpse into the levers which shape and influence how, when, and why salespeople apply resources in the pursuit of new customers.

Publication Title

Industrial Marketing Management





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