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The Mediating Role of Sales Department Innovation Orientation on Creative Selling.

In today's business-to-business (B2B) selling situations, influences in the external environment require salespeople and their managers to cope with dynamically changing customer demands while, at times, their parent organizations implement customer-centric transformations (Jones et al., 2005). These transformations are due, in part, to increased pressure from customers requiring innovative and customized product and service solutions (Wang and Netemeyer, 2004; Browne et al., 2014). As a result, the traditional practice of B2B salespeople (i.e., controlling buyer/seller interactions) is giving way to a more customer-centric, solution-based model of selling as a means for creating and delivering value (Tuli et al, 2007; Lusch et al., 2010).

Marketing research recognizes the role and importance of organizational factors on front line employees' interactions with clients (e.g., Maxham and Netemeyer, 2003). In the sales literature, in addition to the well-documented discussions regarding the importance of individual differences on salesperson performance [e.g., effort (Brown and Peterson, 1994); emotional intelligence (Kidwell et at., 2011)], creative selling is gaining in popularity as a focal topic, likely due to the recognition that contextual influences have an important impact on performance (Wang and Netemeyer, 2004). Creative selling is considered a customer-centric approach to client engagement and one of the most influential yet under-researched areas in sales literature (Evans et al., 2012). It is defined as "the amount of new ideas generated and novel behaviors exhibited by the salesperson" (Wang and Netemeyer, 2004: 806). Salespeople who engage in creative selling generate and evaluate multiple new ideas for satisfying customer needs, find novel ways of prospecting, and make innovative sales presentations (Wang and Netemeyer, 2004; Groza et al., 2016).

Creative selling differs from other selling techniques such as adaptive selling. Adaptive selling is defined "as the altering of sales behaviors during a customer interaction or across customer interactions based on perceived information about the nature of the selling situation" (Weitz et al., 1986: 175). While both adaptive selling and creative selling are designed to satisfy customer needs, they differ in that adaptive selling "involves choosing the right sales presentation style from one's existing knowledge based on specific selling situations" (Wang and Netemeyer, 2004: 806). Accordingly, Wang and Netemeyer (2004) propose that a salesperson's existing knowledge manifests in the form of cognitive scripts stored in their memory that are matched to different sales situations. Thus, adaptive selling is the altering of a sales presentation based on existing knowledge while creative selling is more expansive, allowing for the generation of new and innovate ways of selling.

In response to several calls for research on how organizations and managers may develop a nurturing environment that fosters salesperson creativity (e.g., Wang and Miao, 2015; Evans et al., 2012; Wang and Netemeyer, 2004), the present study explores how both an organization's willingness to customize its product offerings and the role of department innovation orientation affect the creative selling process and, ultimately, sales performance. One of the major challenges in deploying an organizational innovation strategy involves the apparent divide between plans hatched at corporate headquarters and collective actions taken by a relatively isolated sales force (Mulki et al., 2008). Field salespeople, distant from traditional home office settings, typically experience physical, social, and psychological separation from the firm (Weinberg et al., 2014). Consequently, salespeople have fewer opportunities for both formal and informal interactions with supervisors and peers (Challagalla et al., 2000). These types of interactions are fundamental in the development and diffusion of behavioral norms, which serve as the cornerstone of an organization's culture (Hatch and Schultz, 1997). One of the challenges for senior corporate executives and sales managers is creating conditions in which salespeople accept and embrace creative selling techniques with the understanding that they are operating within a supportive environment. Thus, creative output from salespeople relies at least in part on organizations possessing and maintaining a culture which supports and encourages innovative activities (Hurley and Hult, 1998).

Organizations can foster creative selling by developing reward systems, providing resources, and supporting an organizational culture that encourage salespeople to engage in creative selling (Woodman et al., 1993). An organization's culture is a pattern of shared assumptions, involving every member of the firm, that influences all functional areas within an organization (Hatch and Schultz, 1997). Senior executives may either foster or inhibit an innovative organizational culture, which is necessary to support processes associated with developing and deploying products/services to meet customer demands (Hambrick, 1981). To promote interactive value creation, senior executives and middle managers must create a supportive environment that emphasizes the value of innovation and creativity (Jung et al., 2003). Organizational culture that accentuates manager communication and feedback can encourage creativity within the sales force (Agnihotri et al., 2014). By including salespersons' perceptions of both their organizations' willingness to customize product offerings and their sales departments' innovation orientation, the present study examines one of the primary challenges noted by executives--how organizations can foster sales force creativity and enable salespeople to successfully solve customers' problems (Ulaga and Loveland, 2014).

THEORETICAL AND HYPOTHESIS DEVELOPMENT Customization and Creativity

The power of organizational culture is derived from underlying assumptions assumptions--which are shared and reinforced to the point that they become taken-for-granted beliefs. These beliefs, while often not formally stated or acknowledged, have powerful influences on the way an organization operates, impact interactions between members of the organization, and ultimately affect organizational outcomes (Jelinek et al., 1983). At the core of most modern organizations is a market orientation philosophy (Kohli and Jaworski, 1990; Kirca et al., 2005; Shoemaker and Pelham, 2013). Building on the work of Slater and Narver (1995), Mu et al. describe market orientation as "emphasizing] the need for the entire organization to generate, disseminate, and respond to information related to customer needs, preferences, and the competition" (2017: 189).

One important way that organizations implement a market orientation is through continuous innovation of both their product and service offerings (Kohli and Jaworski, 1990; Han et al., 1998). An innovative culture is "characterized by organization-wide learning, participative decision-making, support and collaboration, and power sharing" (Wang and Miao, 2015: 2377). From a sales force perspective, a culture of innovation influences processes and procedures by allowing for more cross-functional collaboration. These processes are likely to manifest when salespeople believe that their firm is willing to customize market offerings. From the firm's perspective, the challenge is how to actualize a culture of willingness to customize down to the sales force and empower salespeople to take actions that result in satisfied clients.

Figure I illustrates the proposed model, featuring firm willingness to customize, department innovation orientation, creative selling, and salesperson behavioral and outcome performance.

Martins and Terblanche (2003) suggest that three major organization-level factors may play a role in promoting creativity in organizations: (1) an innovative strategy focusing on products and services, (2) flexible organizational structure and support mechanisms, and (3) behaviors that support change and open communication channels. The present study focuses primarily on Martins and Terblanche's (2003) second factor regarding perception of support mechanisms as they relate to a salesperson's experience and behaviors. From this line of thinking, salespeople would likely perceive that individual creativity, then, is fostered and most acceptable in organizations that support and value the power of innovation in the marketplace. This notion is echoed by Wang and Netemeyer (2004) who argue that salespeople must be given a substantial amount of freedom from the organization to implement creative selling techniques. The value of encouraging individual creativity should not be overlooked, as it is an important link between innovative strategy and business performance (Han et al., 1998; Puccio and Cabra, 2010). In her work, Amabile (1983) emphasizes the importance of creative output by organizational representatives:
   The entire process of individual creativity must be considered as a
   crucial element in the process of organizational innovation ... It
   is individual creativity that provides the raw material for
   organizational innovation and, therefore, individual creativity
   must be central to the organizational model (1983: 150).


However, manifestation of individual creativity into creative output is dependent upon and resides within the context in which the individual works. A meta-analysis by Hunter et al. (2007) reveals that climate factors such as supervisor support for original ideas, organizational willingness to allocate resources toward innovative endeavors, and organizational integration and coordination influence individual creative effort. Accordingly, salespeople's subjective, top-down perceptions of these organizational and sales department climate factors play a substantive role in their creative interpersonal exchanges (Runco, 2014).

For salespeople to engage in creative selling, therefore, they must first believe that the firm has an innovation orientation, and that implementing these techniques is legitimately supported by their parent organization (Wang and Miao, 2015). Without such perceived support, salespeople may view creative selling as risky, as such actions may be considered outside the latitude of acceptable behaviors. In addition to perceived support, a firm's willingness to customize their product offerings may play an important role in encouraging creative selling. As Martins and Terblanche (2003) point out, firms need to possess flexibility and open communication to foster creativity within an organization. If a firm is not willing to customize its offerings, salespeople may feel limited in their ability to generate new ideas when solving customer problems. However, if salespeople believe their firm is committed to customizing market offerings, they may feel empowered to utilize their creative talents, and, as a result, be more likely to engage in creative selling. Thus,

H1: Firm willingness to customize is positively associated with creative selling.

Firm and Department Orientation

Although there may be many factors that influence a firm's strategic development process, the role of creating and supporting a culture of innovation rests primarily with the top management (Hoffman and Hegarty, 1993). Previous research finds that commitment to innovation by top management is critical in specifying goals, providing resources, and promoting interdepartmental cooperation across the organization (Pillinger and West, 1995; Pintos al., 1993).

As top management sets the overall organizational tone, the vital role of molding, sculpting, and shaping the behaviors and attitudes of salespeople rests with the sales manager (Rich, 1997). Sales departments that have an innovation orientation embrace new product introductions, garner feedback on new product/service ideas, remain receptive to changing market demands, and adopt innovative thinking (Hurley and Hult, 1998). This type of orientation is difficult to cultivate and maintain if the firm does not utilize an innovative alignment approach that fosters customized offerings to meet market demands.

It is evident that middle managers play a crucial role in influencing the implementation of organizational strategy (Rouleau and Balogun, 2011; Browne et al., 2014). And this influence is particularly important in sales organizations, as salespeople are often detached from the home office, which can lead to lone wolf tendencies among its members (Locander et al., 2015). Accordingly, from the salesperson's perspective, department innovation is driven by firm innovation through the degree to which sales managers identify with and implement the firm's innovation culture in their department. Thus,

H2: Firm willingness to customize is positively associated with sales department innovation orientation.

Ultimately, it is up to sales managers to develop and advance the attitudes and behaviors of their salespeople (Rich, 1997). This practice of empowering salespeople coincides with Wang and Netemeyer's (2004) conceptualizadon of creative selling, where salespeople must have both the necessary job latitude and department support for customization so as to engage in creative selling activities. Wang and Netemeyer also note that "due to the close connection between salespeople and their customers, it is only rational and appropriate for management to encourage salespeople to think independently and creatively, and to empower them so that they are able to decide how to best configure and deliver the product" (2004: 810). Therefore, if a sales department is perceived as having an innovation orientadon, salespeople will likely feel encouraged to engage in creative selling. Thus,

H3: Sales department innovation orientation is positively associated with creative selling.

Research suggests that greater interfunctional communication and coordination (e.g., across departments) enhances organizational innovation (Damanpour, 1991). For innovative customization, a company's willingness to customize--arguably created and supported primarily by top management strategists (Hoffman and Hegarty, 1993) ultimately comes to marketplace fruition through its selling activities. Trickle-down models of organizational activity are frequently adopted in managerial science to explicate the relationships between firm strategy and perceptions and implementation at lower organizational levels (Aryee et al., 2007). Successful implementation of such trickle-down processes requires commitment, communication, goals, and allocation of resources across the organization (Pillinger and West, 1995; Pinto el al, 1993).

Social learning theory (Bandura, 1977, 1986) posits that employee adaptation of and orientation toward specific ways of thought are developed through role modeling by those individuals with whom they work most closely. From a sales manager's perspective, expectations for reciprocity would motivate these department leaders to communicate innovation support in an attempt to build strong reciprocal exchange relationships with the salesforce (Blau, 1964). From a macro-organizational (top management) and micro-level (salesperson) perspective, the sales managers therefore serve as essential "links in a chain of interpersonal relationships" through which top-management attitudes flow through the various levels of the organization to stimulate employee behaviors (Dovidio et al., 2006; Mawritz et al, 2012: 326). That is, through social learning and social exchange processes, departmental norms echoing organizational orientation are shared and ultimately guide employee behavior.

A trickle-down model of sales innovation suggests a mediating influence through which higher-level support for customization most strongly manifests as creative selling when the sales department is perceived as being oriented toward innovation. This consideration of a trickle-down model influencing frontline employee interactions with customers is consistent with extant research (Masterson, 2001; Maxham and Netemeyer, 2003). Thus, despite evidence in the sales context that some firm codes of ethical conduct may offer superordinate norms of behavior (e.g., Weinberg et al., 2014), the notion that a sales department-mediated trickle-down process is consistent with the majority of organizational studies that suggest the importance of local contextual influences on salesperson behavior. The trickle-down model aligns with social information processing theory (Salancik and Pfeffer, 1978; Zalesny and Ford, 1990) which suggests that salespeople will look to the immediate social context in which they work (e.g., the sales department) for information that allows them to interpret organizational norms and develop expectations that will guide how they choose to approach customer interactions (Aryee et al., 2007). Thus, it is anticipated that an emergent process through which organizations will act as social systems wherein salesperson interactions with customers are driven by their cognitions of organizational drive as modeled by what they perceive to be analogous norms initiated by the sales department (Katz and Kahn, 1978; Kozlowski and Klein, 2000). Thus,

H4: Sales department innovation orientation mediates the relationship between firm willingness to customize and creative selling.

While the relationship between creative selling and job performance is beginning to gain empirical support (Wang and Netemeyer, 2004; Agnihotri et al., 2014; Wang and Miao, 2015), a better understanding of the impact that creative selling has on different facets of salesperson job performance, specifically behavioral and outcome performance, is needed. While existing research examines salesperson outcome performance, there are additional factors, uncontrollable by the salesperson, which may affect the outcome of any sales interaction (Baldauf et al., 2005). Therefore, when investigating sales performance, it is beneficial to examine both behavior and outcome dimensions separately (Miao and Evans, 2007).

Behavioral job performance refers to the activities and strategies carried out throughout the sales process (Baldauf et al, 2005; Miao and Evans, 2007). The most prominent of these activities includes building and maintaining customer relationships, possessing industry knowledge, and effectively communicating with customers. For salespeople to successfully implement creative selling, they must leverage their customer relationships to garner the necessary information about their customers' situations, possess industry knowledge to determine the relevance of creative ideas, and effectively communicate the value of their creative solutions. Therefore, salespeople who engage in creative selling activities are likely to demonstrate strong behavioral skills in developing creative solutions to satisfy customer needs. Thus,

H5: Creative selling is positively associated with behavioral performance.

In addition to the behavioral aspect of job performance, outcome performance represents the quantitative result of the sales process (e.g., exceeding sales objectives and generating high level of dollar sales; Miao and Evans, 2007). Previous research finds that creative selling positively affects salesperson outcome performance (Wang and Netemeyer, 2004; Agnihotri et al., 2014; Wang and Miao, 2015). This is not surprising, as the essence of creative selling is solving customer problems and satisfying their needs by generating and implementing novel ideas. As a result, customers may perceive creative solutions as a source of competitive advantage, which in turn may generate more sales for the salesperson. Thus,

H6: Creative selling is positively associated with outcome performance.

Finally, while most studies focus on measuring these two performance indicators separately, existing research demonstrates a positive relationship between the two (e.g., Jaworski and Kohli, 1991; Cravens et al, 1993). Specifically, salespeople who do not engage in the behavioral aspects of their job (e.g., effective communication) are unlikely to successfully produce desired outcomes. Thus, the model is completed with the following replication hypothesis, which serves to position the model within the nomological network of extant sales research. Thus,

H7: Behavioral performance is positively associated with outcome performance.

METHODOLOGY

Sample

A sample of 250 B2B salespeople was gathered from a professionally managed online panel procured through Qualtrics Panels, an organization which helped to identify and target currently-employed business-to-business U.S. salespeople. To ensure data quality, all respondents were subjected to multiple screening questions and attention checks developed by the authors and built into the survey. The attention checks were embedded questions that asked respondents to select a certain answer, if that answer was not selected the respondent was removed. In addition, following the recommendation of Babin et al., a panel project manager was employed to attract and screen respondents and provide initial cleaning, a service that "offers a huge advantage in terms of objectivity" (2016: 3135). The survey itself was administered only after the potential respondents passed a series of rigorous control measures designed by the Qualtrics Panels administrative team. Qualtrics Panels project managers work closely with the organization's methodologists and research analysts in the verification of potential respondents to ensure that these individuals represent a consistent blend of responses when measured by comparison with external benchmarks. Further, Qualtrics Panels project managers are responsible for inviting participants with a diversity of motivations to take part in research by soliciting respondents via a variety of media including e-mail invitations, SMS and text messages, telephone alerts, banners and messaging on web sites and online communities.

To participate in this study, respondents were required to have at least two years of B2B selling experience and possess sufficient autonomy from their employer to implement different selling techniques. 633 initial respondents met these minimum requirements for the study. Of these respondents, 310 (49%) passed the first author-designed attention check and 250 (39%) passed the second attention check and were deemed appropriate for inclusion in the study. This final sample of 250 respondents, ages 18 to 78 years ([mu] = 41.76, [sigma] = 13.55), is relatively equally divided by sex, with 138 males and 112 females. Tenure with their present firms ranged from 1 to 39 years ([mu] = 8.12, [sigma] = 6.8) and total B2B selling experience ranged from 3 to 48 years ([mu] = 12.74, [sigma] = 9.59).

Measures

As shown in Appendix A, all latent constructs are measured using previously published seven-point Likert-type scale items ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree," except for the creative selling construct, which is measured using a five-point scale ranging from "practically never" to "almost always." Department innovation orientation is measured using six items adapted from Hurley and Hult's (1998) measure of innovativeness. Firm willingness to customize products is measured using three items adapted from Ghosh et al. (2006), while creative selling is measured using seven items developed by Wang and Netemeyer (2004). Finally, both behavioral and outcome dimensions of job performance are measured with Behrman and Perreault's (1982) respective four-item measurement instruments.

RESULTS

Measurement Model

A confirmatory factor analysis using AMOS 23 indicates good fit for the measurement model [chi square] = 477.34, df = 242, p < 0.01; RMSEA = 0.062, [CI.sub.90%] = 0.054 to 0.071; CFI = 0.95). Appendix A shows the scale items and standardized loadings from the measurement model. The measurement model demonstrates acceptable construct reliability, with all construct reliabilities over 0.70, and convergent validity, with all average variance extracted (AVE) above 0.50, as recommended by Hair et al. (2010). Discriminant validity is assessed by comparing the average variance extracted (AVE) for each construct with the squared interconstruct correlations (SIC) associated with each construct. All AVE's are greater than their squared interconstruct correlations, demonstrating discriminant validity. Table 1 shows the correlation matrix and descriptive statistics for the constructs used in the model.

Tests of Hypotheses

Two structural equation models using AMOS 23 tested the hypothesized relationships in Figure 1. To test the direct effect hypothesized in H1, a structural model without department innovation orientation was analyzed. The [chi square] resulting from testing model 1 is 282.42 (p < 0.01) with 173 degrees of freedom. The CFI 0.967 and the RMSEA is 0.050, [CI.sub.90%] = 0.040 to 0.061; which indicate good fit (Hair et al., 2010). Findings, shown in Table 2, reveal support for H1, as firm willingness to customize is significant and positively related to creative selling ([beta]= 0.48, p < 0.01).

To test the mediation effect of department innovation orientation and the remaining hypotheses, a second structural model was analyzed. The [chi square] resulting from testing model 2 is 539.30 (p < 0.01) with 303 degrees of freedom. The CFI 0.95 and the RMSEA is 0.056, [CI.sub.90%] = 0.048 to 0.064; which indicate good fit (Hair et al., 2010). Also, the measurement coefficients remain stable across the measurement and theoretical models, an indication that interpretational confounding is not present (Anderson and Gerbing, 1992). Age, years of B2B selling experience, and sex were included as control variables in the analyses, as they are known to impact salesperson attitudes and behaviors (Barrick et al, 1994). Age has a significant effect on behavior job performance ((3 = 0.25, p < 0.01), and a negative effect on outcome performance ([beta] = -0.15, p < 0.05). B2B selling experience has a significant effect on outcome job performance ([beta] = 0.13, p < 0.05). These findings are in line with extant sales literature in that "work experience is expected to have a positive effect on performance, whereas employee age is expected to have a negative effect" (Fu, 2009: 8). In addition, sex has a significant effect on department innovation orientation such that female salespeople tend to rate their departments' innovation orientation higher ([beta] = 0.13,p < 0.01).

Table 2 displays findings from the mediated model. As hypothesized, department innovation orientation mediates the relationship between firm willingness to customize and creative selling, providing support for Hypotheses 2, 3, and 4. In support of H2, firm willingness to customize is positively associated with department innovation orientation ([beta] = 0.68, p < 0.01), and in support of H3, department innovation orientation is positively associated with creative selling ([beta] = 0.48, p < 0.01). The results of the mediation test as proposed in H4 suggest that department innovation orientation fully mediates the relationship between firm willingness to customize and creative selling, as the relationship between firm willingness to customize and creative selling is not significant in this model ([beta] = 0.16, p = 0.06). Further, H5 and H6 are each supported, as creative selling is positively associated with both behavioral ([beta] = 0.43, p < 0.01) and outcome job performance ([beta] = 0.28, p < 0.01). The replication hypothesis, H7, is also supported, as behavioral job performance is positively associated with outcome job performance ([beta] = 0.63, p < 0.01).

DISCUSSION

This study's findings highlight the factors in which organizations can promote the use of creative selling. As can be seen from results in support of H1, firm willingness to customize positively affects the creative selling process. Salespeople who believe that their firm is flexible and willing to customize product offerings will be more likely to engage in creative selling. However, as demonstrated in the results of H4, the effect of firm willingness to customize on creative selling is mediated by department innovation orientation. This suggests that creative selling is enhanced when a firm's willingness to customize is deployed through a sales department with an innovation orientation. This finding emphasizes the importance of the trickle-down process where sales managers accept and implement the strategy of developing an innovation orientation. If a sales manager does not foster an innovation orientation, then this important mediating link may break, and as this fully mediating link represents an essential tie between firm-level strategies and salesperson creative selling behaviors, the firm's process of implementing an innovation strategy will likely fail.

Implementing any trickle-down process will almost certainly encounter more barriers than gateways to successful fruition. Van de Ven and Sun (2011) recognize that breakdowns or gaps in the process of implementation may lead to less than desired results. When such gaps occur, management may either take direct action or attempt to foster a reflective process concerning individual and/or contextual breakdowns (Van de Ven and Sun, 2011; Weick, 2011). This requires proactive behavior on the part of the middle managers (in this case sales managers) toward closing these gaps. The systems perspective of the firm advises not to overlook the importance of focusing on both functional areas (e.g., firm willingness to customize) and levels of the firm which are systematically critical to enacting trickle-down policies (e.g., department innovation orientation) (Katz and Kahn, 1978). When such actions are taken by sales managers, this affects interdependencies which are both internal and external to the organization. By examining the area(s) of the firm which weigh heavily in successful implementation of a planned initiative, a clearer picture emerges of those challenges that management must face in overcoming the barriers to achieving desired performance metrics.

The present study examines one element of what Helfat et al. (2009) address as managerial dynamic capabilities in dealing with strategic deployment. In response to market demands, management must configure and deploy strategies down the organization to achieve the desired organization-wide performance (Helfat and Winter, 2011; Sirmon and Hitt, 2009). This research shows the importance of sales managers in creating a more individually empowered and, in this case, creative sales force. The sales force which is often the only face of the company to its customer base. In essence, a breakdown at the sales department level creates a gap in deploying organizational initiatives (e.g., innovation) and the value creation necessary to solve customer problems and/or meet their expectations (e.g., creative selling).

Concern for the challenges of implementing a trickle-down model of strategy (i.e., Aryee et al., 2007) has also been noted by practitioners for some time, but without sufficient empirical support. Specifically, practitioners have wrestled with the challenges in creating desired product or service value propositions at the point of customer exchanges, and also with situations where value propositions communicated to customers (i.e., tailored products offerings) are not properly implemented cross-functionally. Ultimately, the result of these interruptions is customer expectations going unmet. These concerns align with the two pathologies brought to light by Labovitz and Rosansky (1997) which they titled strategy interruptus and forked-tongue syndrome, respectively. That is, interrupted customer-driven strategies lead to the sales force experiencing a forked-tongue syndrome whereby a salesperson's promises are not systematically supported by the entire organization. This results in two gaps: one between the firm's strategic intent and the salesperson's ability to successfully maintain promises, and secondly between the salesperson's promises and customer expectations.

The present study's empirical findings provide a partial foundation for these practitioner observations and suggest the importance of sales department/sales manager proactive mediation to ensure that value propositions meet customer expectations through creative selling. From a salesperson perspective, this research makes it clear that both firm- (e.g., firm willingness to customize) and department-level orientations (e.g., department innovation orientation), taken together, provide a scaffolding necessary to empower creative sales behaviors, providing a gateway to successful market transactions.

LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH

One limitation of this study is that data is sourced from only the operational level of the organization (i.e., the salespeople). While this data collection technique is useful for capturing perceptions and attributions from the B2B salesperson perspective, the primary boundary-spanners in B2B relationships, it results in a limitation associated with self-reported job performance. Although performance merely serves to round out the model and to clarify the positioning of the model within the nomological network of sales management research, future research is needed to confirm the results with an objective measure of job performance. This may prove challenging, however, as the difficulties associated with finding organizations that are willing to turn over this type of sensitive, objective data have been well-documented (e.g., Bommer et al., 1995), resulting in the majority of sales research continuing to measure performance through a series of self-reported, subjective ratings (Jaramillo et al., 2005).

Further, the present study focuses solely on the sales department--the employees who represent the firm to current and potential clients. Other departments, such as those responsible for developing advertising campaigns; new product research, invention, and development; or product design, may prove to have an equally important role toward willingness to customize and creative selling outcomes. Similarly, the degree to which these departments and the sales department have the opportunity to exert upward influence in the strategic development process may be worth exploring. For instance, while the present model for the most part, fits the top-down manner in which firms typically organize, it is probable that the innovation-centric process presented herein could intensify with the existence of a feedback loop. By giving salespeople more of an opportunity to send customer-centric information up the chain of command, top managers' strategic decision-making may be positively influenced by this valuable feedback. Investigations of this, and other iterations of contemporary formal and informal organizational structures, may provide further insights into the contextual boundaries that shape the successfulness of an innovation-centric approach to sales.

Finally, creative selling is an emerging construct and additional research is needed to better understand it from an individual and organizational perspective. It is likely that there are individual factors that would lend themselves as well as inhibit a person's willingness to engage in a creative selling process. While creative selling may play a role in salesperson success, there are many other constructs that predict sales performance. Future research should explore how other well-known variables affect creative selling and salesperson productivity. Hopefully, the present study inspires future work that incorporates an organization-wide perspective of innovative culture, creative selling, and their influence on salesperson performance.
Appendix A
Scale Items and Measurement Properties

Construct Name and Items                   Standardized    CR    AVE
                                             Loading
Department Innovation Orientation
  New products are readily accepted in         0.64
   our department.
  Our department actively searches for         0.81
   new product ideas.
  Our department systematically collects       0.77
   information on innovative trends.
  Our department reacts innovatively and       0.84       0.86   0.64
   flexibly to market challenges.
  In our department, we demand and             0.89
   encourage innovative thinking.
  Our department allows employees to           0.84
   pursue innovative ideas.
Firm Willingness to Customize
  We adapt our products/services to            0.87
   individual customer requirements.
  We offer each customer tailored              0.92       0.75   0.79
   products/services.
  Important features of our products/          0.87
   services are specifically tied to
   our customers.
Creative Selling
  Making sales presentations in                0.80
   innovative ways.
  Carrying out sales tasks in ways that        0.78
   are resourceful.
  Coming up with new ideas for                 0.73
   satisfying customer needs.
  Generating and evaluating multiple           0.74       0.87   0.54
   alternatives for novel customer
   problems.
  Having fresh perspectives on old             0.64
   problems.
  Improvising methods for solving a            0.60
   problem when an answer is not
   apparent.
  Generating creative selling ideas.           0.81
Behavior Performance
  I am very effective in maintaining           0.87
   good customer relations.
  I am very effective in providing             0.94       0.80   0.69
   accurate information to customers
   and other people in my company.
  I am very effective in providing             0.71
   accurate and complete paperwork.
  I am very effective in acquiring the
   necessary knowledge about my                0.79
   products, competitor's products and
   my customer's needs.
Outcome Performance
  I am very effective in contributing to       0.77
   my firm's market share.
  I am very effective in selling to            0.89
    major accounts
  I am very effective in generating a          0.92       0.80   0.75
   high level of dollar sales.
  I am very effective in exceeding             0.87
   annual sales targets and
   objectives.


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David A. Locander

Assistant Professor

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

david-locander@utc.edu

Frankie J. Weinberg

Associate Professor and Dean Henry J. Engler, Jr. Distinguished Professor

Loyola University New Orleans

weinberg@loyno.edu

William B. Locander

Dean, College of Business

Loyola University New Orleans

wblocander@gmail.com

Caption: Figure I: Hypothesized Model
Table 1
Correlation Matrix and Distributive Statistics

                                       FWC       DIO       CS
Firm Willingness to Customize (FWC)    1
Department Innovation Orientation
  (DIO)                                0.65 **   1
Creative Selling (CS)                  0.44 **   0.54 **   1
Behavioral Performance (BP)            0.40 **   0.40 **   0.42 **
Outcome Performance (OP)               0.36 **   0.36 **   0.52 **
Age                                    0.18 *    0.15 *    0.16 **
B2B Selling Experience (EXP)           0.05      0.06      0.13 *
Sex (Male = 0; Female = 1)             0.06      0.16 *    0.05
Mean                                   5.8       5.7       4.2
SD                                     1.3       1.1       0.6

                                       BP        OP       ACE
Firm Willingness to Customize (FWC)
Department Innovation Orientation
  (DIO)
Creative Selling (CS)
Behavioral Performance (BP)            1
Outcome Performance (OP)               0.72 **   1
Age                                    0.25 **   0.16 *   1
B2B Selling Experience (EXP)           0.15 *    0.15 *   0.71 **
Sex (Male = 0; Female = 1)             0.02      -0.01    -0.08
Mean                                   6.3       6.0      41.8
SD                                     0.8       1.0      13.6

                                       E XP        SEX
Firm Willingness to Customize (FWC)
Department Innovation Orientation
  (DIO)
Creative Selling (CS)
Behavioral Performance (BP)
Outcome Performance (OP)
Age
B2B Selling Experience (EXP)           1
Sex (Male = 0; Female = 1)             -0.20 **    1
Mean                                   12.7
SD                                     9.6

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (two-tailed).
* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (two-tailed).

Table 2
Hypotheses Results

Hypotheses     Direct Effects Model (Model 1)
H1             Firm Willingness to Customize      [right arrow]
                      Creative Selling            [right arrow]
                      Creative Selling            [right arrow]
                   Behavioral Performance         [right arrow]

Hypotheses        Mediated Model (Model 2)
H2             Firm Willingness to Customize      [right arrow]

H3           Department Innovation Orientation    [right arrow]
H4 *           Firm Willingness to Customize      [right arrow]
H5                    Creative Selling            [right arrow]
H6                    Creative Selling            [right arrow]
H7                 Behavioral Performance         [right arrow]

                                      Standardized
Hypotheses                               Paths       P Value
H1              Creative Selling          0.48        0.00
             Behavioral Performance       0.43        0.00
              Outcome Performance         0.29        0.00
              Outcome Performance         0.63        0.00
                                      Standardized
Hypotheses                               Paths       P Value
H2           Department Innovation        0.68        0.00
                  Orientation
H3              Creative Selling          0.48        0.00
H4 *            Creative Selling          0.16        0.061
H5           Behavioral Performance       0.43        0.00
H6            Outcome Performance         0.28        0.00
H7            Outcome Performance         0.63        0.00

Note: * H4 is the mediation hypothesis. In this table, it
reports the relationships for the independent variable-dependent
variable paths when the mediation variables are included in the
model.
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Author:Locander, David A.; Weinberg, Frankie J.; Locander, William B.
Publication:Journal of Managerial Issues
Date:Dec 22, 2018
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