Selling to Homer or to Lisa? Conceptualizing Customer Competence in Complex Projects: An Abstract

Florian Kopshoff*, Tobias Schaefers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Across many industries, increasing levels of specialization lead to a growing demand for solutions to individual customer problems. Many of these solutions—such as special machinery, software, or knowledge-intensive business services—are sold and delivered within processes that are commonly referred to as complex projects (Jaakkola and Hakanen 2013; Davies 2004; Möller 2006; Stremersch et al. 2001). In order to be able to successfully sell and deliver complex projects, suppliers depend on input from their customers, especially an adequate articulation of demand and the competence to cocreate value during project delivery. However, existing studies reveal that business customers frequently lack the competence to sufficiently articulate their needs (Aarikka-Stenroos and Jaakkola 2012; Santos and Spring 2015; Tuli et al. 2007). Low customer competence and the resulting ill-defined needs present a challenge for sales managers in project business for three reasons. First, they increase the difficulty for salespersons to offer what the customer actually needs leading to higher effort necessary for making a proposal and at the same time reducing the likelihood of closing a sale. Second, low customer competence is likely to reduce the quality of the definition input a customer can provide, which increases the effort on the side of the salesperson and other functions involved in project execution for successfully delivering a project. Third, a project that is carried out based on ill-defined needs is likely to result in dissatisfaction of the customer, which may require reworking by the supplier, cause lower repurchase likelihood, or lead to costly conflicts. Overall, it is thus important for suppliers intending to successfully sell complex projects to assess and to deal with customer competence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCreating Marketing Magic and Innovative Future Marketing Trends : Proceedings of the 2016 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Annual Conference
EditorsMaximilian Stieler
Number of pages2
Place of PublicationCham
Publication date2017
ISBN (Print)9783319455952
ISBN (Electronic)9783319455969
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event2016 AMS Conference - Walt Disney World Contemporary Resort Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, United States
Duration: 18 May 201621 May 2016
Conference number: 44


Conference2016 AMS Conference
LocationWalt Disney World Contemporary Resort Magic Kingdom
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLake Buena Vista
Internet address
SeriesDevelopments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science

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