Macquarie University
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Unpacking the role of salesperson solution involvement in improving business-to-business microenterprises' financial wellbeing and satisfaction

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posted on 2024-04-03, 01:56 authored by Christian Kwame Tetteh-Afi

The accelerating decline of product margins and the growing nature of customer demands have forced many firms, such as information technology, financial services, and knowledge-based services firms and manufacturers, to offer solutions to business-to-business (B2B) customers and strengthen their market position. Solution provision involves solution providers and customers collaborating to identify customer needs and combine products and services to address the identified needs. While the research provides extensive insight into solutions, this research domain seems disparate and provides limited knowledge on the role of salespersons in improving the financial wellbeing of microenterprises (MEs) and customer performance indicators, such as ME satisfaction with the solution in emerging markets.

This thesis aims to advance solution provision in the context of MEs, consolidate the literature, and explore how salespeople in B2B professional service firms collaborate with MEs in emerging markets to improve both MEs’ performance (i.e., financial wellbeing) and the customer performance of professional service firms (i.e., MEs’ satisfaction with the customised solution). Improving MEs’ financial wellbeing and satisfaction with the customised solution in emerging markets is critically important because they account for a significant share of employment. Yet, they usually have a very short lifespan because they face many challenges, such as a lack of access to funding, poor management skills, and a tendency to not commit to solutions provided to them, which undermines their performance and survival. This thesis develops three interdependent research papers to explore how salespeople help MEs to address some of the challenges they face. 

The first paper aims to consolidate the research on solution provision and improve our understanding of the current solutions literature. Solutions research has received considerable attention from marketing and business academics, resulting in the proliferation of disparate studies within the literature. Therefore, the existing research needs to be integrated and consolidated to offer future research directions. Paper 1: “Solutions research: a systematic literature review” aims to synthesise the existing research, identify gaps, and suggest future research avenues for B2B marketers. The systematic review analysed 110 articles published in peer-reviewed marketing and business journals from 2000 to 2022. The review used a framework to identify three research themes: transition to solutions, solutions performance, and solution provision processes. The paper’s contribution lies in using the framework to identify gaps, potential research questions, and theories and models relevant to each theme to stimulate future research work. The paper also exposes managers to a comprehensive set of factors each affecting solution provision differently. The identified research avenues provided the basis for Papers 2 and 3 of this thesis. 

Paper 2: “Salesperson solution involvement and microenterprise financial wellbeing” focuses on the collaborative relationship between salespersons and MEs through solution design and delivery. This paper introduces role theory into the solutions literature, specifically focusing on salesperson solution selling in professional service firms and MEs in emerging markets. To explain the collaboration mechanism that salespersons and MEs employ to improve ME financial wellbeing, Paper 2 defines solution involvement as the salesperson’s role and adherence to advice as the ME owner’s1 role. Further, the research identifies contingencies that foster or impede such a mechanism. It draws on ME owner’s characteristics (i.e., financial literacy, social ties, and fear of failure) and characteristics of the salesperson’s firm (i.e., customer relationship management (CRM) technology use) to examine the conditions in which salesperson solution involvement is more or less effective regarding ME owner’s adherence to advice. Using triadic data of ME owners nested within salespeople who, in turn, are nested within branch managers, the findings show that advice adherence partially mediates the effect of salesperson solution involvement on ME financial wellbeing. The results also show ME financial literacy positively moderates the salesperson—advice adherence relationship, while MEs’ social ties with peers and fear of failure in securing funding negatively moderate this relationship. The CRM technology of the salesperson’s firm does not moderate this relationship. Based on role theory, this paper extends the boundaries of salesperson solution selling research and offers appropriate strategies for the B2B market by directing attention to how salespeople can enhance ME advice adherence to improve their financial wellbeing. 

Paper 3: “Antecedents and microenterprise outcome of salesperson solution involvement in B2B markets” brings regulatory focus theory and broaden-and-build theory into the solution selling literature. This paper examines how salespersons regulate their behaviour to engage in solution involvement. Using matched data of ME owners and salespeople, the findings show that a balance regulatory focus (i.e., the balance between a focus on promotion and prevention) drives salesperson solution involvement. The results also link salesperson solution involvement to ME satisfaction with the solution. In addition, ME persistence and financial responsibility enhance the effect of the salesperson’s solution involvement on satisfaction with the solution. However, findings show that the salesperson’s learning efforts does not moderate the relationship between balance regulatory focus (BRF) and salesperson solution involvement. This paper advances our understanding of regulatory focus theory and broaden-and-build theory by considering both drivers and satisfaction outcomes of salesperson solution involvement along with key contingency factors in a single model. 

This research has several overarching theoretical and managerial implications. First, from a theory perspective, it consolidates solutions research, identifies the gaps in the current literature, and offers avenues to address them. Second, this study extends role theory to B2B relationships and explains how the interface of salespeople and the ME roles can support MEs’ performance. Third, integrating both the regulatory focus theory and the broaden-and-build theory, the study contributes to salesperson solution selling literature by explaining how salespeople regulate their behaviours to improve customer performance through their interactions with MEs. Further, the study contributes to practice by helping ME owners improve their financial wellbeing and assisting B2B professional service firms to improve their customer performance in an emerging market.


Table of Contents

Chapter One: Introduction -- Chapter Two: Solutions research: a systematic literature review -- Chapter Three: Salesperson solution involvement and microenterprise financial wellbeing -- Chapter Four: Antecedents and microenterprise outcome of salesperson solution involvement in B2B markets -- Chapter Five: Discussion and conclusions -– References -- Appendices

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Doctor of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Marketing

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Aron O'Cass

Additional Supervisor 1

Vida Siahtiri


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




253 pages

Former Identifiers

AMIS ID: 278799

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