Approach or avoid? The effect of regulatory focus on consumer behavioural responses to personal selling attemptsby Guang-Xin Xie, Lynn R. Kahle

Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management

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Year
2014
DOI
10.1080/08853134.2014.929503
Subject
Human Factors and Ergonomics / Management of Technology and Innovation

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Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management

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Approach or avoid? The effect of regulatory focus on consumer behavioural responses to personal selling attempts

Guang-Xin Xiea & Lynn R. Kahleb a College of Management, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston,

MA 02125, USA b Lundquist College of Business, 1203 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA

Published online: 23 Jun 2014.

To cite this article: Guang-Xin Xie & Lynn R. Kahle (2014) Approach or avoid? The effect of regulatory focus on consumer behavioural responses to personal selling attempts, Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 34:4, 260-271, DOI: 10.1080/08853134.2014.929503

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08853134.2014.929503

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Approach or avoid? The effect of regulatory focus on consumer behavioural responses to personal selling attempts

Guang-Xin Xiea* and Lynn R. Kahleb aCollege of Management, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125, USA; bLundquist College of

Business, 1203 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA (Received 11 April 2013; accepted 27 May 2014)

While salespeople use adaptive influence tactics in interactions with consumers, consumers can act as goal-oriented individuals attempting to manage those interactions. Prior research has documented a repertoire of consumer response behaviours, but little is known about the motivational forces. The present research examines the effects of regulatory focus on consumer behavioural tendencies in response to personal selling attempts. The findings suggest that the more promotionfocused consumers are more likely to engage in goal-seeking behaviours. This research not only addresses a void in the literature, but more importantly, sheds light on motivational antecedents driving consumer behaviours in customer– salesperson interactions.

Keywords: interpersonal persuasion; personal selling; regulatory focus; response behaviours; consumer–salesperson interaction

Introduction

Salespeople often use adaptive influence tactics to engage consumers in a way that drives sales performance (Homburg,

Müller, and Klarmann 2011; Weitz, Sujan, and Sujan 1986).

They need to keep in mind that consumers can respond to the influence tactics strategically (Bunn 1993; Friestad and

Wright 1994). Kirmani and Campbell (2004) categorized consumer response behaviours under three tendencies: ‘goal seeker’, ‘persuasion sentry’ and ‘seeker and sentry’. Goal seeker is ‘…a target focused on goal attainment and open to both exerting and receiving influence in order to achieve a goal’ (576). Persuasion sentry refers to ‘…ways in which the target tries to guard against persuasion from an agent perceived as impeding goal attainment’ (577). Bargaining is the third tendency reflecting characteristics of goal seeker and persuasion sentry: ‘…consumers use bargain both to attain their own goals and to avoid unwanted persuasion’ (578). The ‘seeker–sentry’ typology provides an important framework illustrating how consumers might cope with personal selling attempts to achieve their personal goals.

To date, however, little is known about the motivational factors affecting consumers’ response tendencies. The lack of studies on this topic is intriguing. Conceptually, the seeker–sentry framework is theorized on the basis of consumers’ preferred modes of goal attainment. It is therefore essential to identify specific motivational antecedents to enrich this framework. From a practical standpoint, salespeople can utilize adaptive influence tactics more effectively by understanding the linkage between consumers’ goal orientations and their response tendencies.

Salespeople can either act in line with consumer goals or take actions to evoke consumer goals in fostering cooperative consumer–salesperson interactions.

The present research addresses this void by examining the effects of regulatory focus on consumers’ behavioural responses to personal selling attempts. Regulatory focus, as an individual or a situational difference, can affect congruence between personal goals and actions to achieve the goals (Higgins 1996, 2002; Shah and Higgins 1997).

The literature has documented its pervasive influence on consumer judgements, choices and purchase intentions (Aaker and Lee 2006; Hong and Lee 2008; Pham and