Frontpage  About
Paper info: Perceptions of Roles and Characteristics of Buyers and Sellers in Business-to-Business Relationships


Perceptions of Roles and Characteristics of Buyers and Sellers in Business-to-Business Relationships


Doris Jansson, Mika Ojala and Tommi Mahlamaki

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 27th IMP-conference in Glasgow, Scotland in 2011.


Download paper
(161.2 kb)


Key Words:
Buyer and seller characteristics, Sales managements, Purchasing management
Background and purpose of the paper
In industrial companies the buyers and sellers are in a critical role. The roles are evolving and
some changes are often mentioned. Davies et al. 2010 state that business-to-business sales
role is changing into relationship management. The concept of relationship selling is also
used (Geiger & Finch 2009). This role is seen as very different from traditional selling.
Moncrief and Marshall (2005) enlighten selling’s changes from the perspective of seven steps
of selling and changes in this traditional selling model. They also conclude that selling is
nowadays more of managing customer relationship at many levels. This is well in line of the
development of the IMP literature, which discovers the relationships and interaction towards
both suppliers’ and customers’ direction. Also the interplay between sales and other areas
such as finance or accounting is in more focus (Geiger and Guenzi, 2009).
Rather similarly as selling has evolved, purchasing has faced many new challenges during the
last decades. In the past, purchasing was seen as a supporting clerical function, where the role
was minimizing prices of bought items. Nowadays purchasing is an important function
contributing to business success. In many companies this is a result of the increased
proportion of purchases in relation to turnover (for example Van Weele 2005; Gadde and
Håkansson 2001; Iloranta and Pajunen-Muhonen 2008).
Characteristics of good sales and other mangers are studied widely in the past (Barling and
Beattie, 1983; Barrick et al., 2002; Lee and Gillen, 1989). While there is lot knowledge about
the important characteristics, there is a lack of research how these characteristics are
perceived by the people themselves and others. The current research asks both the sellers and
buyers to first evaluate (or assess) themselves and after that to evaluate the other party (i.e.
sellers evaluate buyers and wise versa). In the IMP literature the basic constructs of actors,
resources and activities (ARA model, Håkansson & Johanson 1992) are widely studied. Still,
the characteristics of buyers and sellers in inter-organizational settings are partly neglected.
The perceptions of buyers’ or sellers’ characteristics have a great impact on the relationship
building and for example trust creation and commitment. In conclusion, our aim in this paper
is to discover both the changes in the importance of sales and purchasing functions and
perceptions of buyer and seller characteristics.