The Role of Sales Representatives in International Buyer-Seller Relationships

Flora F. Gu*, Jeff Jianfeng Wang, Danny T Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


In international buyer-seller relationships, buyers are often at a disadvantageous position in terms of local knowledge in a foreign country. Sales representatives, who operate at the interface with the international buyer, play a critical role in facilitating transactions and building long-term relationships. This research aims to better understand the influence of sales representatives in international buyer-seller relationships. In particular, it addresses three questions:
1. How does rep-owned commitment influence the seller firm’s financial performance?
2. What kinds of salespeople are more likely to cultivate rep-owned commitment?
3. How does cultural distance matter in the development of rep-owned commitment?
Our research team has been theorizing a conceptual framework, collecting and analyzing data since early 2014. We collected data from four leading multinational trading companies headquartered in Shanghai, China. With support from these companies, we gained access to their international clients’ database. The final sample consisted of 160 buyers from 33 countries or regions. Our sources of data include (1) buyers’ responses to our questionnaires, (2) archival figures of sales revenue between each buyer-seller dyad, and (3) cultural distance measure based on Hofstede’s (2001) country scores. We used AMOS to conduct confirmatory factor analysis, ensure measurement qualities, and test hypotheses.
Our results show that rep-owned commitment significantly enhances the seller firm’s financial performance in terms of sales revenue and market share. Moreover, sales reps who are perceived trustworthy in both capability and benevolence dimensions are more likely to cultivate rep-owned commitment. Most interestingly, we found that when cultural distance is low, that is, when the buyer and seller share similar culture, the sales rep’s capability trust is more important in creating rep-owned commitment. However, when cultural distance is high, that is, the buyer firm is from a culturally distant country, the sales rep’s benevolence trust is more important in developing rep-owned commitment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2016
Event15th World Business Research Conference: Strands of Development - Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
Duration: 25 Feb 201626 Feb 2016


Conference15th World Business Research Conference


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