|dc.description.abstract||The purchase of complex products and services is increasingly taking place in multidisciplinary purchasing teams. These purchasing teams are also referred to as buying centers. This increasing presence of buying centers on the customer side is also generating the reaction on the supplier side that more and more selling centers are being formed. Like buying centers, selling centers are multidisciplinary teams made up of participants from different functional areas. In some cases, the respective goals of these functional areas can have conflicts of interest that prevent a successful conclusion of a sales project. Furthermore, it is also noticeable that selling center participants can come not only from different functional areas, but also from different levels of the company hierarchy. These framework conditions pose particular challenges for the management of selling centers.
A characteristic of selling centers is that the responsible sales employee, who assumes an informal project manager role during the sales project, has no formal authority over the selling center participants involved. This means that a sales employee can only lead participants laterally, which, however, presupposes that the participants involved recognize and accept this leadership. Without acceptance of leadership, a sales representative runs the risk that the participants in the selling center will not invest a sufficient amount of time and effort to successfully close the respective sales deal. This can lead to competitive disadvantages, internal conflicts, or emotional reactions such as stress or frustration among the sales employee and the selling center participants. The identification of this situation formed the basis for the research questions to be examined in this dissertation.
This dissertation examines factors that can lead to acceptance of leadership in selling centers. Furthermore, it examines whether these factors can be influenced and finally, whether different factors are important for different selling center participants with different characteristics. These characteristics can be genders or hierarchical levels within one´s own company.
The dissertation starts with a detailed literature review to define the terms acceptance, leadership, and selling center and to narrow it down with regard to the research topic. Furthermore, various role concepts are evaluated in terms of their empirical evidence and applicability to selling centers.
The results of this literature review are consolidated within a procedural investigation model which forms the basis for the qualitative study. This investigation model describes the process of acceptance of leadership in selling centers. It also addresses the participants’ cognitive processes in a selling center to be managed which take place until leadership is accepted. Its idea is based on the SOR model.
A sequential quantitative-qualitative mixed method design was used to investigate the research questions. The research design consisted of a qualitative preliminary study with N = 12 interview participants and a quantitative main study with N = 166 interview participants. All participants were selected based on their existing selling center experience. The qualitative part of this mixed-method design study was used for exploration and hypothesis creation, while the quantitative part was used for hypothesis testing and identification of subgroup differences.
With regard to the research questions, the aim of the qualitative part of this study was to identify factors that generate acceptance of leadership in selling centers. Based on the cognitive process steps that are described within the research model, an interview guide was created. The interviews took place face-to-face between the interviewer and the interview participants. Each interview was conducted in a semi-structured manner. The evaluation of the transcribed interviews was carried out using a qualitative content analysis. This rule-based approach consists of paraphrasing, generalization, and a two-stage reduction process. Furthermore, various quality criteria for the evaluation of the data were collected and will be discussed here.
Through inductive category formation, twelve category clusters were created, consisting of thirty-eight main categories, which in turn consist of ninety-four subcategories. The category clusters consist of performance incentives, structural framework, resources, strategic orientation of the selling center, factors at team level, personality traits, intelligence, competencies and key competencies, experience, personal attitude, work instructions, and leadership styles. In addition, a frequency analysis was carried out in which the number of codes generated per gender and hierarchy level was determined. Hypotheses were formed for each main category, which build the basis for the quantitative part of this mixed method design study. Furthermore, an assessment was carried out using scientific literature to determine whether these factors could be influenced by a sales employee or an organization. In particular, the practical implementation was dealt with during this assessment, i.e. specific options were identified that influence these factors.
While the qualitative part of this study serves to explore factors and verify whether they can be influenced, the quantitative part aims to empirically test the hypotheses formed and to identify subgroup differences. A questionnaire was created for the quantitative part of this study. New scales were developed for this questionnaire and validated using various methods. In order to reduce the risk of a high dropout rate, only one main category was selected for the quantitative part per category cluster. The main categories were chosen based on the results of the frequency analysis. The creation and validation process of this questionnaire is explained in detail. Subsequently, the implementation of this study, its quality criteria, and the characteristics of the participants will be discussed. The results are evaluated both descriptively and inferentially. Both the results of the overall sample and the individual subgroups are considered during this analysis. Within the quantitative part of this study, it was found that certain factors can differ depending on the gender or hierarchical level of a selling center participant. A discussion of these results concludes the quantitative part. In the case of statistically significant results, the effect size was also considered during the discussion section of the quantitative part. After carrying out the quantitative study, possible reasons for subgroup differences were discussed, including existing research.
The dissertation ends with a critical assessment of the research methodology and offers specific implications for research and practice.||es