Toward a Theory of Business Buyer-Seller Similarity

Lichtenthal, J. David; Tellefsen, Thomas
January 2001
Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management;Winter2001, Vol. 21 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
This paper proposes an expanded view of industrial buyer-seller similarity. Past research indicates that business buyers may judge their degree of similarity with a salesperson in terms of observable characteristics (physical attributes and behavior) and internal characteristics (perceptions, attitudes, and values). The synthesis of findings suggests that internal similarity can increase a business buyer's willingness to trust a salesperson and follow the salesperson's guidance and, therefore, increase the industrial salesperson's effectiveness. In contrast, the literature reviewed also indicates that, under most circumstances, observable similarity exerts a negligible influence on a business buyer's perceptions or a salesperson's effectiveness. Thus, the key finding is that it is more important for buyers and sellers to think alike than to look alike. An implication is that managers will not derive a substantial benefit from simply matching salespeople and buyers demographically. Indeed, improvements to a sales force's performance can be gained by hiring salespeople who possess the flexibility to identify potential areas of internal similarity and training them to build upon those issues to foster positive perceptions with buyers.


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