In Business-to-Business relationships (B2B), people make the difference when it comes to business interactions and purchasing decisions. Studying those relationships has resulted a career’s worth of research topics for Lisa Scheer, Emma S. Hibbs Distinguished Professor of Marketing in the Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business.
Recently, Scheer has looked at loyalty patterns in B2B relationships. She’s in the middle of an ongoing, industry-sponsored project with doctoral candidate Justin Lawrence, in which they are exploring interpersonal relationships, specifically as it relates to salespeople and their clients. They are examining how sales representatives’ relationships with their client affect loyalty, and conversely, how that loyalty impacts perception of the customer.
“Justin and I have been involved since day one with this massive research project that will spawn several research publications,” Scheer said.
The project is a collaboration with a Fortune 500 company that is allowing Lawrence, Scheer and their research collaborators to survey the company’s sales force and customers and to access company databases.
Another component to the research is the value of salespeople and the role technology plays in the relationships. What Scheer and her team found may be surprising: Customers who had the highest share of online purchasing and a higher degree of contact with their salespersons were the most beneficial for the seller. Scheer said this may be due to greater customer online ordering allowing the salesperson to focus valuable face time with the customer on value-added services rather than simply recording orders.
“When salespeople aren’t responsible for making transactions, they’re able to research more of what the customer needs,” she said.
This insight could lead to better strategizing techniques for companies and their sales teams. It also could affect company policy and training techniques.
Scheer has recently submitted an article for journal publication from this research. The article is co-authored by Lawrence, recent MU PhD graduate Andrew Crecelius and marketing Assistant Professor Ashutosh Patil. Several other manuscripts from the Lawrence-Scheer project are in preparation.
Scheer has studied B2B relationships since she was a doctoral student at Northwestern University under Louis W. Stern, an emeritus professor and leading researcher in the area of marketing channels and management. In 2014, Scheer was awarded the honor named for her mentor, the American Marketing Association Foundation’s Louis W. Stern Award, for a paper she co-authored in the May 2007 Journal of Marketing Research.