Marketing and sales interface flexibility: a social exchange theory perspective
2015-06-25T10:24:01Z (GMT) by
To be successful in today s turbulent business environment it is very important for a company to exhibit flexibility in its processes, activities and interfaces. Such a flexible approach enables firms to adapt and improvise in order to achieve the best possible outcomes. In spite of there being ample research on how to achieve flexibility in a variety of business process and activities, there remains little understanding on how flexibility in managing the use of resources reveals itself in intra-organisational interfaces. This thesis sheds more light on this issue and investigates flexibility specifically in the relational context of cross-functional interfaces. The importance of developing and investigating flexibility at the cross-functional relational interface is embedded in the recognition that the ability and willingness of departments to adapt and to accommodate deviations from original strategies through their cross-functional working is a critical factor for success. This research investigates flexibility at one such interface that is argued to be essential in achieving organisational success but that is characterised by conflict, lack of cooperation and distrust the Marketing and Sales interface. A literature review incorporating two broad literature streams; i.e., the Marketing and Sales cross-functional relationship literature and the literature on organisational flexibility helped develop a guiding definition of Marketing and Sales Interface Flexibility (MSIF). This definition was subsequently confirmed in the exploratory phase of the thesis, thereby providing a stronger conceptualisation of the MSIF phenomenon. The concept was found to be predicated on social exchange theory s view on the M&S exchange relationship as a dynamic process in which both continuously adapt to each other s needs through modification of their resources required to match those needs. Consequently, a theoretical model was developed. This model argues for an inverted U-shaped relationship between MSIF and business performance. According to this model, beyond certain optimal point MSIF may reduce business performance. Based on the empirical testing of the model via a survey of 229 UK-based business organisations no support was found for the inverted U-shaped relationship between MSIF and customer performance. Results of the empirical testing indicated that MSIF has an inverted U-shaped relationship with a firm s market performance. These results imply that a firm s market success is secured at lower levels of MSIF whereas further increases in investments in MSIF may, at some point, become detrimental to an organisation s market performance (i.e., market share and sales volume). Therefore, the findings suggest that managers should manage MSIF wisely, hold themselves from over-investing in MSIF and seek to find the optimal level which will provide the best market performance. On the other hand, MSIF was found to have a linear, positive relationship to customer performance indicating that higher levels of MSIF will secure more a satisfied and loyal customer base. The study also incorporates the contingency theory perspective and hypothesises the moderating effect of market dynamism on the MSIF - performance relationship. The results indicate that the value of MSIF for generating market performance decreases as technological turbulence in the market increases. Based on the social exchange theory the relationship between four socially constructed antecedents and MSIF are proposed. The findings highlight the positive impact of, (1) trust in the Marketing and Sales relationship, and (2) rules and norms of social exchange between Marketing and Sales as reflected in compatible goals and joint rewards on MSIF. However, resource dependence asymmetry is found to be negatively related to MSIF suggesting that a misbalanced resource dependency between the two will hamper MSIF. The theoretical and practical implications of the study findings are subsequently presented along with an acknowledgment of the study s limitations and proposed future research to further explore this important area.