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Winning and keeping customers:

A Decision Style view on key account selling in the electrical utility industry

Summary

The article introduces a study of customer - key account seller relationship quality in personal customer contacts. The study, which was conducted in utility companies in Sweden and Germany, shows that the theory of Decision Styles is very well suitable to support systematic efforts on the side of the utility key account seller, to improve the "chemistry", i.e. the quality of the sales encounter when properly applied.

The theory of Decision Styles, on which the study builds, categorizes individuals along the dimensions of "Information Use" and "Solution Focus". From these dimensions, four main Decision Styles are defined. Decision Styles are styles of information processing and decision behaviour that people have. They also depend on the social situation and environmental load that the person is experiencing. The theory suggests, that people who have the same style communicate with much more ease than people that meet with completely different modes of Decision Styles.

The article presented compares the Decision Styles of key account sales people of energy utility companies and customer representatives with the perceived sales encounter relationship. The study proved the hypothesis that if the key account seller and the customer representative have the same style, the relationship quality is perceived as good, while when they feature different styles, the relationship quality suffers.

Supposing that a favourable key account seller - customer relationship influences the satisfaction of the customer from the service that the utility is providing, this result suggests that utility sales staff should be systematically aware of how to accommodate to the Decision Style of the customer representative. This can be achieved by including sales partnering workshops with the theme of Decision Styles in the sales staff training program.

The entire paper in PDF format.