Professional buying: A pre-sales interaction study of buyer behaviour and value perception

Aitken, Alan (2014) Professional buying: A pre-sales interaction study of buyer behaviour and value perception. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines, from the perspective of the professional buyer, value perceptions and approaches to relationship management. Research relating to the professional buying process is often hampered by issues relating to commercial confidentiality which impacts upon access to both the pre-sales interaction and also to details of the final terms of trade. Nevertheless, both researchers and practitioners continue to call for a better understanding of the purchaser/supplier interface. This thesis endeavours to penetrate the commercial sensitivity by adopting a qualitative research stance focusing on perceptions of transactional value and buyer behaviour. Support for such an approach is to be found across a range of literature and through this methodology the research aims to provide a more holistic understanding of the professional buying process and the related social interactions and relationships.
The study centres on transactions in which the prevailing power balance dictates that there is significant interdependence between the parties. These transactions are characterised by buyers having the incentive to be proactive in their choice of sourcing behaviours, but also by their recognition that they do not possess the power advantage that would allow them to simply dictate the terms of trade. The transactions examined involve rebuys which are seen to include either an upgrade or are otherwise perceived as important by the buyer. In such situations not only are buyers most likely to be focussed on the presales interaction, but literature also shows that they have more flexibility in their choice of relationship management approach.
Conducting an initial literature review suggested that buyer behaviour is likely to conform to broad perspectives whose objective is either to appropriate value through building cooperative relationships or to capture value by maximising transactional power. However, in order to better inform the research effort, an exploratory study was undertaken which showed that while the initially expected underpinning principles and practices are evident; they do not fully explain buyer behaviour throughout the transactional process. Through a further review of literature, including that from the emergent school of Service-Dominant Logic (S-DL), consideration of the professional buyer’s value perception appeared to offer a theoretical platform from which those wider aspects of buyer behaviour may be better understood. While S-DL is premised on the notion of value-in-use, and recognises Exchange Value, the exploratory study suggested that a further value perception may be present. Buyer Specific Perception of Value (BSPV), which is phenomenologically determined by the buyer’s wider psychological needs, may be a significant driver of buyer behaviour.
In order pursue the research objectives, the adopted method of data collection involved engaging professional buyers in a contemporary interpretation of the ‘Diary - Diary Interview Method’ (after Zimmerman and Wieder, 1977). A web based diary was initially used to collect the thoughts of buyers as they progressed through the pre-sales and immediate post-sale interaction associated with an appropriate transaction. On completion of the diary, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the buyers to develop the themes raised. The interviews were transcribed and the resulting texts examined using Qualitative Content Analysis (QCA), which involved detailed examination of the textual data in an attempt to identify recurrent themes. These themes were then systematically grouped with the intention of developing a deeper and more complete understanding of the text.
In order to present the QCA results in a manner that minimises the effects of decomposition and decontextulisation, a graphical format was developed to represent both the buyer’s adopted relationship management approach and also the buyer’s value perceptions. The term ‘Transaction X-Ray’ is used to describe the resulting graphic.
The results are initially presented in the form of individual ‘Transaction X-Rays’ then, through the aggregation of individual results that share specific common characteristics, composite ‘X-Rays’ are formed. Analysis of these composite ‘X-Rays’ gives rise to the emergent themes from which the research contribution is derived.
The dominant behaviour pattern to appear from the X-Ray analysis is that of the ‘T-Shaped’ Buyer, who characteristically adopts an Adversarial commercial approach to relationship management while simultaneously seeking, to a somewhat limited extent, the means for operational collaboration. Secondary behaviour patterns are also identified. ‘Transaction X-Rays’ also demonstrate that the dominant value perception held by buyers is that of Exchange Value, while also confirming the significance of Buyer Specific Perception of Value (BSPV).
Recognising the limitations that are implicit in findings based on empirical evidence derived from a relatively small sample, it is nevertheless suggested that the dominance of the ‘T-shaped’ Buyer profile has a significance that resonates far beyond the confines study. For example, the findings appear counter to the philosophy advanced by those who suggest that by building a relationship, and openly sharing information, the buyer-seller dyad will develop in a manner that would not be possible via Arm’s Length approaches. A further significant contribution made by the thesis relates to the application of Service-Dominant Logic in respect of the Buyer Specific Perception of Value (BSPV) which is created for the buyer, during the pre-sales interaction. This point occurs much earlier in the value co-creation process than has previously been considered within the S-DL School, and identifies a source of value that has been largely ignored within S-DL. The thesis concludes with a discussion as to the significance of the wider findings of the study and suggests where further research may extend the contribution.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Purchasing, relationship management, buyer behaviour, value perception, service-dominant logic
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Supervisor's Name: Paton, Professor Robert A and Wilson, Doctor James M.
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Alan Aitken
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5207
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2014 13:47
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2016 11:10

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