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5.2 ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS, Business and Management., Econometrics
Every customer-facing organisation must have some means of developing customer interest in their offerings (Monat, 2011). Growing sales and finding new qualified customers (Sohnchen & Albers, 2010) is the lifeblood of any company (Monat, 2010; Hummel, 2011; Blake, 2013; D’Haen & Van den Poel, 2013; Moncrief, Bedford, & Bedford, 2017). For start-up companies and established firms looking to open up new markets, salespeople play a major role in acquiring these new customers (Harmon, Hammond,Widing, & Brown, 2002). The sales process is an essential tool to clarify the steps required to win sales. However, there is little emphasis on the front-end of this process – the steps needed to get a customer. Dubinsky, 1981 and Moncrief & Marshall (2005) highlighted the traditional seven steps of selling at a macrolevel. There are significant streams of literature on issues such as key account management (KAM) (Guenzi, Georges, & Pardo, 2009), sales and marketing integration (Le MeunierFitzhugh & Massey, 2019), CRM (Agnihotri, Trainor, Itani, & Rodriguez, 2017), social media (Itani, Agnihotri, & Dingus, 2017), and the role of information technology (Harrison & Hair, 2017) that give insight but need to be integrated. At the front-end of the sales process the focus is on identifying prospects - a process called lead generation (Jobber, Lancester, & Le MeunierFitzhugh, 2019). Despite the criticality in acquiring new customers and building a sales pipeline (Wilding, 2014), this is an area where a significant gap in the literature has emerged, and has been considered the ‘neglected dark side of selling’ (Virtanen, Parvinen, & Rollins, 2015). This thesis focuses on the early stages of the front end of the sales process in B2B by creating a framework, informed by theory and a two stage research methodology, which provides firms with opportunities for early relationship building (Borg & Young, 2014) and helping to build a sales pipeline, complementing and enhancing the seven steps approach (Moncrief & Marshall, 2005). Phase one was a set of nine interviews with individual small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). This led to a set of challenges for these firms around the front-end of the sales process culminating in a Prospecting Implementation Process (PIP). Following on from this, semi-structured interviews took place with 17 participants from six SME case companies: three located in the UK and three in Ireland. This research resulted in a Sales Pipeline Execution Process (SPEP) which contributes towards the closing of the literature gap around the front-end of the sales process. This SPEP has shed light on each stage of the front-end of the sales process. This research has also identified antecedents which are a key part of the overall SPEP that should enable the further enhancement of the SPEP, resulting in moving the sales cycle for organisations that adopt it nearer to closing the sale.
Sheahan, K. (2020) Developing and Empirically Testing a Sales Pipeline Execution Process Framework, Doctoral Thesis, technological University Dublin.