Are Conservative Approaches to New Product Selling a Blessing in Disguise?

Michel Van der Borgh, Jeroen Schepers

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A new product’s success in the marketplace largely depends on salesforce actions. Many B2B salespeople display conservatism when confronted with new products in their portfolio, such that they maximize their efforts to sell existing products before engaging in efforts to sell the new product. So far, it is unclear whether this conservative selling behavior (CSB) is harmful to new product selling performance, and how this behavior can be managed. Building on perceived risk processing theory, and employing multi-level structural equation modeling on a multi-source dataset, the authors empirically substantiate that salespeople’s CSB makes their effort to sell new products more effective. Remarkably, such effort is then valued less by sales managers. The authors also find that CSB is a result of a risk assessment and evaluation process, in which internal marketing efforts (i.e., providing salespeople with information on the new product) determine the weight of perceived performance risk (i.e., new product radicalness), social risk (i.e., managerial new product orientation), and financial risk (i.e., long-term rewards). Managers looking to control the levels of CSB in their salesforce should carefully align their information support activities with the perceived risk dimensions of the new product selling situation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Academy of Marketing Science
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)857-878
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Sales management
  • Salesperson performance
  • New products
  • Conservative selling behavior
  • Business-to-business
  • Perceived risk processing theory

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