Research

Research Overview

Willy’s research looks at the behaviors and performance of salespeople and sales managers – often with an eye toward the development of newly hired salespeople over time. In general, the following figure serves as a guiding framework for Willy’s research, and most projects focus on one or more of the following factors:

2014-6-24 - New Hire Gen Model

All of Willy’s research takes a consultative approach by looking for research opportunities that are academically and scientifically interesting and valuable to the companies that he works with. This means that all research programs are built around a company’s needs and interests.

Research Testimonials (Corporate Clients)

“Thank you for the in-depth analysis and presentation you provided us! We were impressed and have already started using the results in developing our new hires.”
-Senior VP, Direct Sales Organization

“In a world where consultants are hawking off-the-shelf research products no matter what kind of widget you happen to sell (or how you sell it), we feel that the customized research conducted by Dr. Bolander and his team has helped provide us a deeper understanding of the behaviors that help us win in our category.”
-Division Sales VP, National Retail Company

Selected Research Publications

    • Performance failure is ubiquitous among new salespeople, yet managers know very little about how to manage salespeople experiencing repetitive failure. This study finds that repetitive periods of failure increase unethical behaviors and interventions intended to remind the salesperson to behave in the customer’s best interests attenuate this effect, but only under a non-contingent reward structure. Under a contingent reward structure these interventions actually backfire by amplifying the relationship between failure and unethical behaviors.
    • Sales performance has traditionally been studied as an outcome of salespeople’s behaviors with customers. Using social network analysis, this study explores sales performance as an outcome of behaviors and relationships within salespeople’s own organizations. Results indicate that two social network characteristics (relational and positional centrality) are drivers of salesperson performance and that salespeople’s political skill is an antecedent to relational centrality, but not positional centrality.
    • Lead Article
  • Sales Education Efficacy: Examining the Relationship Between Sales Education and Sales SuccessJournal of Marketing Education (2014), 36 (2), 169-181 (with Leff Bonney and Cinthia Satornino).
    • Newly hired salespeople are often thrown into environments where a sense of learned helplessness can develop over recurring periods of performance failure. This study examines how learned helplessness translates into salespeople’s behaviors with customers and delineates some surprising findings about what types of leadership can help offset these undesirable customer-directed behaviors.
    • This study was named the best sales paper published in the Journal of Marketing Education in 2014.
    • Newly hired salespeople are often thrown into environments where a sense of learned helplessness can develop over recurring periods of performance failure. This study examines how learned helplessness translates into salespeople’s behaviors with customers and delineates some surprising findings about what types of leadership can help offset these undesirable customer-directed behaviors.
    • Researchers have long assumed that existing methods of classifying influence tactics accurately describe similarities in the way salespeople use tactics, and the effects of using those tactics, in practice. This study does not find support for this perspective. Instead, our results suggest that effective influence may be more personal and idiosyncratic than is often acknowledged in our models of salesperson influence.
    • Given that organizational change efforts are often won or lost in the front-lines, salespeople are constantly called upon to perform in the face of change. This study empirically examines the longitudinal influences of salespeople’s goal orientations (learning and performance) on performance trajectories during a planned intervention in order to understand why some salespeople are better at adapting to change than others.
    • This study was also featured as a Research Brief titled “Performance Orientation or Learning Orientation: Which Helps Salespeople Better Adapt to Organizational Change?” in Academy of Management Perspectives 2010.
    • Organizational commitment (OC) has been established as an important job attitude, yet managers lack knowledge regarding how to influence OC and what types of OC are actually useful in driving salesperson effort. This study decomposes OC into its components and finds that OC based on a salesperson’s intrinsic values (normative) does not drive effort, but OC that stems from excitement and emotion (affective) does.
    • This study was republished in 2013 in a special virtual issue featuring the 10 most cited articles published in the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice from 2008-2012.

Google Scholar Profile

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Sample Clients (Research and/or Training)

Clients