Selling actors in multi-actor sales ecosystems: Who they are, what they do, and why it matters

Patrick Weretecki, Goetz Greve, Jörg Henseler

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate selling actors in multi-actor sales ecosystems. When selling actors start taking over tasks that were formerly performed by salespeople, the distribution of tasks, allocation of responsibilities and finally the role of the salespeople changes. However, little is known about salespersons’ perceptions of selling actors’ identities and participation behavior in multi-actor sales ecosystems. Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted a World Café, a new qualitative method to the field of sales research, to obtain first data on selling actor identities in multi-actor sales ecosystems. Salespeople, who had the chance to observe and interact with more than 98,000 selling actors, disclosed their perceptions of selling actors’ participation behavior in a multi-actor sales ecosystem. Four different data sources were analyzed using qualitative content analysis to develop a comprehensive understanding of the topic and to test validity through the convergence of information from different sources. Findings: Using identity theory, a salesperson–selling actor relationship/behavior typology for multi-actor sales ecosystems was developed. Eight different selling actor identities were identified: avoider, observer, receptive actor, prepper, expecter, savvy actor, challenger and coworker. Originality/value: The typology provides researchers and managers with a tool to better understand and evaluate sales ecosystems. This knowledge can be used as a starting point for the reassessment of the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for salespeople in multi-actor sales ecosystems and to improve their training and coaching. The firsthand experiences reported by the participants of the World Café enable salespeople to identify different selling actors faster and prepare fitting approaches for all selling actor identities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberJBIM-03-2020-0145
Pages (from-to)641-653
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2021


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