• Initial Business-to-Business Sales Encounters. The Impact of the Similarity-Attraction Effect

      Wright, Gillian H.; Dekker, Johannes J. (University of BradfordSchool of Management, 2016)
      During initial business-to-business encounters, salespeople try to enhance buyers’ future interaction intentions. A common belief is that increasing buyers’ similarity perceptions increases the chances of future interaction. This study assesses the impact of the similarity-attraction effect on future interaction. By synthesising social psychology and marketing literature, a conceptual framework is proposed, in which perceived similarity influences salesperson trust. This relationship is mediated by task-related and social assessments of buyers. Task-related assessments comprise willingness (benevolence and integrity) and competence (power and expertise). Social attraction is conceptualised as likeability. Salesperson trust drives anticipated future interaction, together with organisational trust and anticipated added value. The conceptual framework was empirically tested through a cross-sectional survey. Dutch professional buyers assessed recent initial sales encounters. A sample of 162 dyads was analysed, using PLS-SEM, including FIMIX segmentation. This study demonstrates support for a third willingness construct: willingness behaviour. This construct implies that buyers are more influenced by expectations regarding behaviour, than assessments of salespeople’s attitudes. A homogeneous analysis supports the influence of perceived similarity on salesperson trust, both directly and through willingness behaviour. However, model-based segmentation uncovers a segment of cost-oriented dyads and a segment of more profit-oriented dyads. In cost-oriented dyads, there is no significant direct effect between perceived similarity and salesperson trust, and willingness behaviour nearly fully mediates this relationship. In more profit-oriented dyads, the similarity-attraction effect is not present. Theoretical and methodological contributions and managerial implications of these findings are discussed.