Date of Award
Executive Doctorate in Business (EDB)
Wesley J. Johnston
Danny N. Bellenger
Identifying new potential customers and developing opportunities until converted to sales is a critical function of a sales organization. In most industrial business contexts, opportunities are monitored within a sales pipeline or funnel, to track the status and progress from the initial stage until the sale is completed, often using sales force automation tools, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems to manage the process. While much is written about the adoption, usage, and failures of CRM, little empirical research exists to fully examine the levers to improve the conversion performance of sales leads, particularly in a business-to-business (B2B) industrial context. The research based view (RBV) of the firm suggests that competitive advantage is gained from a company’s distinct resources, and that in technology and other fast-paced markets, success is further determined by fast adaptation, in what is know as dynamic capability theory. This research examined certain key sales capabilities, within the high technology industrial B2B sector, to understand the impact of sales effort, sales ability and lead source, on sales lead conversion yield and cycle time. By studying the extensive CRM data base of a large semiconductor company, along with various human resource records, a quantitative study was performed to address this research, while providing useful value to sales managers seeking to improve the lead conversion performance of their organizations. Sales effort, as measured by number of sales calls made per week, and percent of time spent on selling activities was shown to modestly accelerate sales cycle times, but have no effect on the percentage of opportunities that result in wins. Sales ability, measured by annual performance ratings, prior year quota attainment and years of experience showed no effect on cycle time, nor win percentage. The most notable contribution of this research is the illumination of sales effort effects on cycle time, as previous studies of sales cycle time influences have been inconclusive. Against the backdrop of a general lengthening of industrial sales cycle times, understanding that salesperson effort can reduce the time that it takes to win an opportunity can drive meaningful improvements in salesforce efficiency and productivity.
Bradford, William R., "Antecedents of Sales Lead Performance: Improving Conversion Yield and Cycle Time in a Business-to-Business Opportunity Pipeline." Dissertation, Georgia State University, 2016.