Entrepreneurial Selling: Creating Resilient Small Businesses by Developing the Sales Competencies of Business Owners in the Netherlands

Research output: PhD thesisResearch HvA, graduation external

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Purpose: Preventing business failure remains a significant challenge for small businesses in the Netherlands. Given their importance for the Dutch economy, understanding the causes of business failure and equipping business owners with strategies for resilience is imperative. This dissertation seeks to address this challenge by examining the sales role of business owners, referred to as ‘Entrepreneurial Selling,’ within the context of small-scale Dutch businesses. The goal is to identify how business owners can develop effective sales behaviors to mitigate the risk of failure and enhance the long-term viability of their businesses. The research into Entrepreneurial Selling is rising, yet further advancements, including this dissertation, are required to better support business owners in their continuous sales responsibilities. The main research question, therefore, is: How do small-scale business owners in the Netherlands behave in their Entrepreneurial Selling role and how can they become more effective in their sales behavior?

Methods: To address the research question, a multimethod research approach is utilized. The research design comprises a literature review, three progressively linked studies, and practical applications. The first study (Chapter 4) involves a content re-analysis of 55 interviews to underscore the pivotal nature of Entrepreneurial Selling in preventing business failure. The second study (Chapter 5) conducts 12 semi-structured interviews, employing thematic analysis to categorize business owners' sales behaviors based on their entrepreneurial motivations. In the third study (Chapter 6), quantitative methods are employed (N=276) to explore the relationship between Entrepreneurial Selling Role Orientation (ESRO) and effective sales behavior. These studies provide the foundation for the practical applications developed in collaboration with practitioners (Chapter 7).

Findings: The first study found that Entrepreneurial Selling is a crucial activity for preventing business failure and one that business owners recognize. Reasons for underperformance can include business owners allocating inadequate time to selling, deficient sales skills, and procrastination of sales activities. The subsequent studies build on this foundation. The second study introduces an Entrepreneurial Selling typology, linking business owners' motivations with their sales role strategies, offering insights into how motivations influence sales behavior. The third study introduces the concept of ESRO and substantiates its impact on sales behavior. Furthermore, a positive connection is identified between sales training and effective sales practices. The findings of the studies are individually applied to Sarasvathy’s Bird-in-Hand principle of Effectuation theory and are synthesized within the Entrepreneurial Selling Matrix.

Originality/Value: This dissertation contributes to the Entrepreneurial Selling field by advancing our understanding of the business owners’ sales role in enhancing business resilience. It underscores the connection between ineffective sales practices and business failure and delves deeper by investigating the interplay between entrepreneurial motives and ESRO on sales behavior. Additionally, this study bridges the gap between entrepreneurship- and sales research by applying the Bird-in-Hand principle to business owners' sales behavior. In practical terms, the research's outcomes are twofold. First, it refines the Entrepreneurial Selling Matrix, providing a pragmatic typology that aids sales training practitioners in guiding business owners toward aligning sales behaviors with entrepreneurial goals. Second, it introduces an Entrepreneurial Selling Training Program, accompanied by tools, facilitating sales trainers in evaluating and improving current and desired sales behaviors. This practical approach contributes directly to nurturing resilient and thriving businesses.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Business Administration
Awarding Institution
  • Business School Lausanne
  • Majer, Marko, Supervisor, External person
  • Wakkee, Ingrid, Supervisor
Award date30 Sept 2023
Place of PublicationChavannes
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2023


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