An intercultural, interpersonal relationship development framework

Jonna Koponen, Saara Julkunen, Mika Gabrielsson*, Ellen Bolman Pullins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore how business-to-business (B2B), intercultural, interpersonal salesperson–customer relationships develop using the lens of identity management theory (IMT; Imahori and Cupach, 2005). Design/methodology/approach: The research uses qualitative semi-structured interviews on 18 targeted relationships with customers from another culture conducted with business-to-business salespeople.
Findings: The findings indicate that our respondents' relationships moved from trial toward enmeshment and on occasion toward the renegotiation phase, as described in IMT. In the case of low cultural diversity between salesperson and customer, the relationships reached the trial and enmeshment phase. In the case of high cultural diversity between salesperson and customer, the relationships on occasion evolved toward the renegotiation phase. Salespeople's cultural intelligence (CQ) facilitates the development of interpersonal, intercultural salesperson–customer relationships.
Originality/value: The authors transfer IMT from the personal relationship development arena to B2B intercultural, interpersonal relationships, address a gap in the literature in the understanding of salesperson–customer interpersonal relationships in different contexts and develop a theoretical model to understand intercultural, interpersonal salesperson–customer relationship development across different levels of cultural diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalInternational Marketing Review
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1189-1216
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • B2B salespeople
  • Cultural diversity
  • Cultural intelligence
  • Customer relationships
  • Identity management theory
  • Relationship development


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