Transitioning from product to service-led growth in manufacturing firms: Emergent challenges in selecting and managing the industrial sales force

  • Ulaga W
  • Loveland J
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Abstract

Despite the increasing strategic value of service-led growth in competitive and commoditized markets, firms frequently encounter problems orienting their industrial sales forces toward these new organizational objectives. To identify important potential challenges to firms attempting to make the transition to service-led growth, we conducted focus groups and depth interviews with 38 sales executives at goods-dominant business-to-business firms. Our discussion with C-suite managers uncovered four major transition issues, to wit, (1) the magnitude of change at the sales organization level triggered by a service transformation; (2) unique elements of selling hybrid offerings versus industrial goods; (3) the link between these differences and the sales proficiencies required for hybrid offering sales; and (4) potential individual differences among high-performing hybrid offering salespeople, compared with sales reps focused on goods sales. These insights highlight some of the managerial and sales force-level challenges that goods dominant firms will have to address as they attempt to initiate and maintain the transition to a service-led growth strategy. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Business-to-business services
  • Goods-centric sales force
  • Resource-based view
  • Service transition strategies
  • Services sales force

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