Inflection points during a disruptive event: planning within the sales force


Marketing and Professional Sales

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Purpose: This paper aims to investigate business-to-business sales executives’ navigation of challenges and changes in planning during two separate periods (prevaccine and postvaccine) of time, which were impacted by a disruptive event (the COVID-19 pandemic). Design/methodology/approach: This study uses a two-phase qualitative data collection approach. Thirteen executives, primarily from the Business-to-Business (B2B) manufacturing industry, were interviewed in phase one (2–3 months before the first COVID-19 vaccine). The second period of data collection was collected 4–5 months after vaccines became available. Findings: The prevaccine business environment focused on short-term challenges, while the vaccine created exponential changes to long-term sales practices, suggesting the need to focus on critical inflection points that occur after the initial disruptive event. Research limitations/implications: This exploratory study is a step toward developing a deeper understanding of managing disruptive events within a business-to-business sales environment by stressing the importance of both the actual disruptive event and the inflection points that follow the event. Practical implications: New business models are constantly developing and evolving. However, this study suggests the biggest changes could occur after an inflection point from the disruption. Thus, firms need to consider different planning strategies before and after certain inflection points following a disruptive event. First, firms should adapt from their predisruption strategy to focus on short-term challenges during the initial phases of a disruption, likely halting most of the long-term planning. Second, inflection points create the need to move beyond short-term challenges and changes to focus on long-term changes. Third, long-term strategies and planning postinflection point will be different, and likely more complex, than long-term strategies and planning predisruption. Originality/value: Most studies look at a disruptive event through a single data collection period. This longitudinal study compares prevaccine and postvaccine thought processes to explore the impact of an inflection point.

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Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing

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