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.
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