Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Independent Sales Representatives: The Influence of Information Quality on Manufacturer Trust

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Independent Sales Representatives: The Influence of Information Quality on Manufacturer Trust

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Outsourcing the sales function to independent sales representatives enables a manufacturer to focus more time on developing and managing core competencies, thus being able to leverage them to obtain a competitive advantage. Independent sales representative firms are called manufacturers' representatives in this article and denoted as MRs. The manufacturers they represent are termed principals, as they are commonly identified in the literature. Principals were asked in the study, described in this article, what they would like to be different when working with an MR. Fifty-seven principals responded to the question and sixteen of them described the need for better communication. For example, one "wished he (the MR) would respond quicker and wish he would just be honest when giving an answer and avoiding baloney." These comments and others indicate the importance of communication. Communication is the "glue that holds together a channel of distribution (Mohr & Nevin, 1990, p. 36) and influences the continuity of interfirm relationships (Anderson & Weitz, 1989).

To understand the influence of communication in the MR-Principal relationship, the principal's opinion of information shared by an MR (i.e. Information Quality) was examined. It was studied in relation to the principal's trust in the MR. This article reports findings of the study that sought to answer two questions: (1) To what extent does the principal's perception of the quality of information, provided by the MR, influence the principal's trust in the MR? (2) To what extent does the principal's perception of the quality of information influence the principal' s perceptions of antecedents to trust? Antecedents included in this study are MR Performance and MR Compatibility with the principal. The study makes two contributions to academic literature pertaining to MRs. First, it breaks new ground by examining factors from the perspective of the principals; their opinions of MRs are considered. Previous research on the MR-Principal relationship is primarily based on opinions of MRs (e.g., Pass, Evans, Lastovicka & Schlacter, 2012). The second contribution is that the study findings show the influence of quality information on the principal's trust perceptions in tandem with its influence on antecedents to trust.

BACKGROUND

The quality of information an MR provides the principal was examined in relation to trust, since trust is fundamental to successful MR-Principal relationships (McQuiston, 2001). Trust is the willingness to be vulnerable to the behavior of another because there is the belief that the behavior will be performed as expected (Mayer, Davis & Schoorman, 1995). It has been described as one's perceptions of another's credibility and benevolence (Doney & Cannon, 1997). With respect to the MR-Principal relationship, the credibility dimension of trust is the extent to which the principal can rely upon the MR to do what is promised. Benevolence is the extent to which the MR is truly interested in the success of the principal and wants to help the principal succeed.

A study of salespeople identified by principals as trusted advisors found that the quality of information they provide principals is a key component influencing trust perceptions (Neu, Gonzalez & Pass, 2012). Several characteristics of information were considered when principals evaluated its quality. Some are related to information content (relevance, unbiased, and completeness) while other characteristics denote the process taken when sharing information (proactiveness, timeliness, frequency, and responsiveness). Therefore, Information Quality is defined for this study as the principal's perceptions of the information content provided by the MR and the process of sharing the information.

HYPOTHESES

The quality of information, based on a manufacturer's perceptions of content and the process of sharing, influences both components of trust (i. …

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