For a considerable amount of time, business-to-business (B2B) sales strategies have emphasized the execution of negotiations between business partners via electronic means, most notably e-mail.
In a recent article published online in the Journal of Marketing, a group of marketing researchers examined the comparative effectiveness of e-negotiations and conventional face-to-face communications in generating more B2B sales.
“This research investigates salespeople’s use of influence tactics as textual cues to manage buyers’ attention during B2B e-negotiations to win sales contract award,” wrote Sunil K. Singh, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Nebraska-College Lincoln‘s of Business and co-author of the study.
“Drawing on studies of attention as a selection heuristic, the authors advance the literature on sales influence mechanisms by theorizing buyer attention as an important mediating variable between the use of influence tactics and contract award.”
Over the course of two years, researchers from the University of Missouri, the University of Nebraska, and Case Western Reserve University collected communication data from over 40 e-negotiations.
According to researchers, the email communications data of B2B sales negotiations contained a corpus of validated textual cues synonymous with the influence tactics of sales partners. These e-communications data are supplemented by in-depth interviews and surveys with salespeople, archival performance data, and a controlled experimental study with professional salespeople.
After analyzing the communications data, it was determined that buyer attention was correlated with a greater probability of contract award. Influence tactics, such as the use of internal analysis and risk-shifting, were associated with sales effectiveness, but were insufficient to hold a buyer’s attention long enough to secure a contract. Instead, promise and assertiveness are two factors known to make information processing less intimidating and reduce uncertainty in contract award risk assessment.
In addition, the findings suggest the implementation of buyer-attention-building strategies during online sales negotiations. Researchers have found that a 30 percent increase in buyer interest significantly increased the likelihood of contract award.
Researchers determined that buyer attention should be utilized as a key process metric, allowing for its measurement among salespeople in order to establish performance and identify areas requiring improvement.
“The obtained results indicate that the concurrent use of compliance or internalization-based tactics as textual cues bolsters buyers’ attention and is associated with greater likelihood of contract award. In contrast, concurrent use of compliance and internalization-based tactics is prone to degrade buyer attention and likely to put the salesperson at a disadvantage in closing the contract award,” Singh, and his colleagues, explained in a news release.