Research in B2B markets has extensively investigated the role of long-term relationships between vendor firms and their customers. That research has focused on long-term personal relationships and trust between a vendor's sales rep – the key representative of the vendor firm – and B2B customers based on frequent sales encounters. However, in many B2B contexts, especially when serving small accounts whose buying potential are small, sales reps typically have no pre-existing personal relationship with the customer, who encounters the sales rep for the first time. These ad hoc encounters can create distrust in the sales rep, harming the trusting relationship between the buying and the vendor firms. The authors investigate selling behaviors that reduce the negative effects of such distrust. Using data from a telecommunications firm, the results show that distrust in the sales rep has a negative effect on vendor trust, lowering sales performance. However, the authors find that those negative consequences are mitigated if sales reps use relational selling behavior but are exacerbated by functional selling behavior. Finally, the authors show that the effectiveness of functional selling behavior depends on the amount of time a sales rep spends with a customer, while the effectiveness of relational selling behavior does not.
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