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Emerging Research

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New Tricks for Old Dogs and Other Research Surprises 

The common wisdom in supply chain sales management is that while new salespeople need careful training, experienced veterans are more effective when left alone to apply their knowledge and expertise. But in a research paper he is now preparing for submission to the Journal of Marketing, Clarkson Professor Fred Miao demonstrates that traditional thinking in sales force management may have been wrong because often these “old dogs” can apply “new tricks” even better than their less experienced colleagues. Similarly, his research team has broken new ground in determining how suppliers can gain true customer loyalty. These landmark findings will appear in a forthcoming issue of the highly regarded Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

Since he joined Clarkson in the fall of 2007 as an assistant professor of marketing, Dr. Miao’s scholarship has been living up to the promise he showed while earning his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, Columbia. In 2006 his doctoral dissertation “Salesforce Control Systems — An Integrated Approach” won both the Direct Selling Education Foundation Sales Dissertation Grant of the American Marketing Association and the Best Doctoral Dissertation Award of the Academy of Marketing Science.

Fascination with the dynamics of corporate sales and purchasing led him to a Ph.D. at Missouri, Columbia, where he benefited from studying with two internationally recognized scholars. One was Dr. Kenneth R. Evans, an authority on industrial sales force management. The second was Dr. Lisa K. Sheer, a well-known expert in buyer-supplier relationships.

Subsequently, he has continued to publish joint research findings with each of them. Miao and Evans performed follow-up research stemming from his dissertation, titled "Re-examining the Influence of Career Stages on Salesperson Motivation - A Cognitive and Affective Perspective," which is currently under review by the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management. Teaming up with Sheer and Dr. Jason Garrett, Miao also has a paper in the forthcoming Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. In the paper, the researchers explored factors affecting how a supplier can build long-term customer loyalty. They assess a complex set of variables related to development of unique product quality, design, features and service in determining ways that a supplier can differentiate itself from competitors so that buyers face higher switching costs (in time or money). The trio concluded that higher switching costs and unique benefits increase loyalty by making buying firms less sensitive to competitive suppliers' offerings.

Dr. Miao believes that significant new supply chain research questions are developing in the U.S. as the economy increasingly shifts from goods-based to service-based industries. “Service industries, such as health care, involve a lot more human-based skills instead of machine-based equipment or production processes.” The development of networked links among hospitals, medical doctors, clinics, laboratories and insurance companies, for example, are creating increasingly complex channels. So with respect to his research findings on long-term loyalties, trust and confidence become even more significant. “If a patient has a long trusting relationship with a medical provider, he’s much less likely to switch.”

Currently, Dr. Miao's research interests include marketing strategy, supply chain channel relationships, and sales management, while his teaching focuses on supply chain distribution channels, marketing management, and retail management.