10 great sales research sources

July 9, 2019 by   in kojo blog, Latest News

In some ways, the sales development sector has been a story of the wild west and snake oil salesmen: “Follow my 6-step process in your industry and you will be the best in your sector for sales growth”. For many years, sales was considered an art not a science. Now sales research has come of age and we have summarised 10 great sales research sources here.

So that is the good news! Sales research has advanced considerably over the last decade. As a result, this is rapidly changing. Moreover,  the associated field of social psychology  is enjoying a very strong interest. So, we are in a much better position to unlock (and therefore manage) sales organisations.

At Kojo Academy we follow a research-led approach. That is to say, we use evidence-based practices to help tune our client’s sales performance. We have reviewed sales research sources over many years and reflect on that research in our practical and applied work with clients.

Here, we present to you, 10 great sales research sources. These will offer you great insights into the black box of sales.


“Sales Force Effectiveness: A Framework For Researchers and Practitioners”
 Journal of Personal Selling and Sales management –  Zoltners et al (2008)

Our start point for any sales performance project is to start at the high level and zoom in: How is the whole sales organisation set up? How does the system influence individual performance?

Zoltners et al’s sales force effectiveness framework is a great example of an early influential model. This helps conceive how a sales organisation works. The system level view reminds us that tinkering with the parts can be ineffective. This can have unintended consequences!

“The determinants of sales performance – a meta analysis”
Journal of marketing research – Churchill et al. 1985

This paper was a real pioneer. It was written in 1985 based on a meta-analysis. As a result it is the so-called gold standard of research. While many researchers have gone on to nuance the findings, we admire this work for its ground-breaking approach. Mainly, to forensically examine what makes sales people effective.

“Customer prioritisation, does it pay off and how should it be implemented?”
Journal of Marketing -Homburg et al (2008)

One of the big levers we can pull to drive sales performance is to objectively categorise our customers. Consequently, we can invest time at the most profitable opportunities. Dr Christian Homburg’s work in this area has really provided a strong evidence base for this approach. In addition, it forms a big part of our sales improvement work. So, if you have not done your customer prioritisation yet – get in touch quickly!

sales & marketing research

An assessment of needed sales manager skills
Journal of Personal Selling and Sales management – Powers et al. (2014)

The role of managers in coaching and driving success is well known. This really thorough analysis on the role of a sales manager is an extremely useful resource. Most importantly, for  those of you who are HR and L&D professionals trying to get a handle on what sales managers can and should do!

The elements of value
Harvard Business Review – Almquist et al (2016)

Often talked about, but, rarely understood or delivered well, value is a core topic in sales. Are you a B2B organisation  looking for an edge on how to deliver value to customers? Then,  Almquist’s article offers 40 distinct ways to do it! You will find this is great source material for helping account managers find new ways to differentiate themselves and create lock-in.


The Benefits of Sales Force Automation: A customer’s perspective
Journal of Personal Selling and Sales management – Boujena et al (2009)

Very few organisations exist without CRM today. However, very few organisations are 100% happy with their CRM. Despite being researched in 2008, this work has a very important message about CRM: The importance of it offering value to customers. But, this perspective is often obscured or totally neglected to this day in CRM implementation.

sales & marketing research

Ending the war between sales and marketing
Harvard Business Review – Kotler, Rackham & Krishnaswamy (2006)

With such an evocative title, how could we miss this one out? Many of us will recognise the tensions that exist between sales and marketing.  Kotler (a marketing expert) and Rachham (a sales expert,)  did and were the first to structure the debate and provide a very useful diagnostic for improving alignment. The nature of alignment has changed drastically since then.  This is thanks to technologies and techniques like marketing automation and account based marketing. However, this paper is still a great start point.

Value stream mapping in sales
Journal of Personal Selling and Sales management – Barber & Tietje (2008)

Way ahead of it’s time, the researchers applied lean thinking to sales process mapping. Mainly, their aim was to remove waste and accelerate sales. Surprisingly, the paper built little ongoing momentum. Actually, the main sales process improvements were being made by tech firms using analytics and advanced CRM tools. We still find this a go-to methodology to help clients think how they can improve their sales processes.

Human behaviour and the market place
Market Research – Cialdini & Rhoads (2001)

As a sales professional, you are no doubt aware of Dr Cialdini’s 6 principles of influence. In fact, he had been championing the use of psychology in marketing some time before the famous book was published. This approach is a really neat example of understanding the ‘art’ of sales.

sales & marketing research

Strength of weak ties
American Journal of Sociology – Granovetter (1973)

Finally, we go way back to 1973 for a heavily cited paper in social science. This has proved its worth in social media sales, of all places. With its easy to remember ‘the strength of weak ties’ headline, the paper reminds us that new ideas and leads come from the more distant parts of our network. In short, this thinking underpins how we created our 4 V’s social media selling programmes for maximum effectiveness.


Be informed!

We hope you find time to search out and enjoy these landmark sales research papers. We certainly hope they encourage you to look inside your sales organisations to find new areas for growth!

Kojo Academy draws on a research database of over 1500 sources like these to inform our client programmes. So, if you prefer to use evidence rather than snake oil to boost growth, then get in touch!

Above all, you can be sure you are working with the best ideas and practices in the business.



Finally, If you would like to read Cialdini’s book….

Influence: The psychology of persuasion. R. Cialdini


sales & marketing research



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