Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Business and Economics


Marketing and Supply Chain

First Advisor

Dr. Steven J. Skinner

Second Advisor

Dr. Brian R. Murtha


This dissertation consists of two essays in which we examine the recommendation behavior of multi-line salespeople. Multi-line salespeople are those who are able to choose among overlapping, competing manufacturers’ products to make a recommendation to their customers. In this dissertation, we seek to explain why and how multi-line salespeople may recommend particular products to their customers.

In the first essay, we examine why salespeople may recommend a particular product. Manufacturers frequently face the challenge of motivating distributor salespeople to focus efforts on their products rather than on their competitors’. Thus, manufacturers often rely on outcome (e.g., rewards) and behavior (e.g., training) controls. We refer to these as external controls because they reflect mechanisms by which one firm directs another firm’s employees. External controls tend to raise concerns among salespeople about the appropriateness of being influenced by an outside firm, which can be alleviated by seeking cues about their managers’ external controls. The results of a three-source, multilevel study suggests that manufacturers can enhance the ability of salesperson external controls to drive focused effort (i.e., recommendations) by increasing similar sales manager external controls; however, increasing dissimilar controls may reduce the positive impact of salesperson external controls on their focused effort.

In the second essay, we examine how salespeople may recommend a particular product. The process of how purchase decisions are made by customers is well-known in the literature (i.e., self decision-making); however, to date, there has not been a complementary understanding of how purchase decisions are made for customers (i.e., self-other decision-making). The results from a qualitative study involving 71 covert participant observation encounters with salespeople across 71 store locations of 3 retailers indicate a three-step recommendation process: goals, strategies, and recommendations. Drawing upon field observations and the decision-making literature, we show that salespeople emphasize different goals when recommending products than customers making decisions for themselves. We also complement prior research by expanding the scope of known decision-making strategies (self and self-other lexicographic) and surfacing a new decision-making strategy (product homogenization). Finally, we identify three recommendation types, and link the steps in the process model via a set of integrating propositions.

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