Research Overview

Willy’s research looks at the behaviors and performance of salespeople and sales managers – often with an eye toward the development of newly hired salespeople over time. In general, the following figure serves as a guiding framework for Willy’s research, and most projects focus on one or more of the following factors:

2014-6-24 - New Hire Gen Model

All of Willy’s research takes a consultative approach by looking for research opportunities that are academically and scientifically interesting and valuable to the companies that he works with. This means that all research programs are built around a company’s needs and interests.

Research Testimonials (Corporate Clients)

“Thank you for the in-depth analysis and presentation you provided us! We were impressed and have already started using the results in developing our new hires.”
-Senior VP, Direct Sales Organization

“In a world where consultants are hawking off-the-shelf research products no matter what kind of widget you happen to sell (or how you sell it), we feel that the customized research conducted by Dr. Bolander and his team has helped provide us a deeper understanding of the behaviors that help us win in our category.”
-Division Sales VP, National Retail Company

Selected Research Publications

  • Toward an Optimal Donation Solicitation: Evidence from the Field of the Differential Influence of Donor-Related and Organizational-Related Information on Donation Choice Amount,” Journal of Marketing, (2018), 82 (2), 142-152 (with Tatiana Fajardo and Claudia Townsend)
    • Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) often implicitly assess their fundraising efforts by the “positive number rule,” which says that a fundraising attempt is successful so long as it produces a positive number of donations. This article seeks to provide insight into how NPOs can better optimize their solicitations by decomposing donation behavior into two dimensions – choice and amount – and exploring, through a series of field experiments, the differential influence of donor- and organization-related information on these dimensions.
  • Exploring the Unintended Negative Impact of an Ethical Climate in Competitive Environments,” Marketing Letters, (2017), 28 (4), 621-635 (with Bryan Hochstein and Bill Zahn)
    • It is popularly believed that a competitive climate (CC) has the potential to produce unethical behaviors among salespeople but that this potential may be constrained by the presence of an ethical climate (EC). This work tests this idea by exploring how these two climates interact to influence salespeople’s ethical behaviors, revealing that, contrary to this intuition, an EX actually exacerbates, rather than attenuates, this relationship.
  • Time, Change, and Longitudinally Emergent Conditions: Understanding and Applying Longitudinal Growth Modeling in Sales Research,Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, (2017), 37 (2), 153-169 (with Riley Dugan and Eli Jones)
    • Research in marketing and sales is seemingly obsessed with cross-sectional research designs. In part, this is because researchers have been led to believe that collecting and analyzing longitudinal data is too difficult. Hoping to spur new research that properly accounts for time, this article argues against such perceptions and details on particular method – longitudinal growth modeling – that demystifies longitudinal data analysis.
  • “Let’s Make a Deal:” Price Outcomes and the Interaction of Customer Persuasion Knowledge and Salesperson Negotiation Strategies,” Journal of Business Research, (2017), 78, 81-53922 (with Yvette Holmes, Lauren Beitelspacher, and Bryan Hochstein)
    • Negotiation has become increasingly popular in business-to-consumer contexts, yet most negotiation research comes from business-to-business settings. This research explores the interaction of salesperson negotiation strategies and consumer persuasion knowledge (CPK) to predict price concessions and customer satisfaction, finding that when CPK is high, salespeople should integrate, but when CPK is low, they should avoid.
  • Managing New Salespeople’s Ethical Behaviors during Repetitive FailuresJournal of Business Ethics, (2017), 144 (3), 519-532 (with Bill Zahn, Terry Loe, and Melissa Nieves)
    • Performance failure is ubiquitous among new salespeople, yet managers know very little about how to manage salespeople experiencing repetitive failure. This study finds that repetitive periods of failure increase unethical behaviors and interventions intended to remind the salesperson to behave in the customer’s best interests attenuate this effect, but only under a non-contingent reward structure. Under a contingent reward structure these interventions actually backfire by amplifying the relationship between failure and unethical behaviors.
  • Does the Customer Matter Most? Exploring the Strategic Frontline Employees’ Influence of Customers, Business Partners, and the Internal Sales Team,” Journal of Marketing, (2016), 80 (1), 106-123 (with Chris Plouffe, Joe Cote, and Bryan Hochstein)
    • For decades marketers have treated the customer as the most important target of a frontline employee’s (FLE) influence attempts. However, modern FLEs must now influence a portfolio of relationships that includes customers, the internal business team (IBT) within an FLE’s own firm, and external business partners (EBPs). This work examines how influence tactic effectiveness varies across stakeholders and finds, somewhat controversially, that both IBT and EBPs account for more variance in sales performance than customers.
    • This study was awarded the AMA’s Sales SIG Research Excellence Award, 2016.
  • Social Networks within Sales Organizations: Their Development and Importance for Salesperson Performance,” Journal of Marketing (2015), 79 (6), 1-16 (with Cinthia Satornino, Doug Hughes, and Gerald Ferris).
    • Sales performance has traditionally been studied as an outcome of salespeople’s behaviors with customers. Using social network analysis, this study explores sales performance as an outcome of behaviors and relationships within salespeople’s own organizations. Results indicate that two social network characteristics (relational and positional centrality) are drivers of salesperson performance and that salespeople’s political skill is an antecedent to relational centrality, but not positional centrality.
    • Lead Article
    • This study was awarded the AMA’s Sales SIG Research Excellence Award, 2015.
  • Sales Education Efficacy: Examining the Relationship Between Sales Education and Sales SuccessJournal of Marketing Education (2014), 36 (2), 169-181 (with Leff Bonney and Cinthia Satornino).
    • Newly hired salespeople are often thrown into environments where a sense of learned helplessness can develop over recurring periods of performance failure. This study examines how learned helplessness translates into salespeople’s behaviors with customers and delineates some surprising findings about what types of leadership can help offset these undesirable customer-directed behaviors.
    • This study was named the best sales paper published in the Journal of Marketing Education in 2014.
  • Learned Helplessness among Newly Hired Salespeople and the Influence of LeadershipJournal of Marketing (2014), 78 (1), 95-111 (with Michael Ahearne, Jeff Boichuk, Zach Hall, Bill Zahn and Melissa Nieves).
    • Newly hired salespeople are often thrown into environments where a sense of learned helplessness can develop over recurring periods of performance failure. This study examines how learned helplessness translates into salespeople’s behaviors with customers and delineates some surprising findings about what types of leadership can help offset these undesirable customer-directed behaviors.
  • Which Influence Tactics Lead to Sales Performance? It’s a Matter of StyleJournal of Personal Selling and Sales Management (2014), 34 (2), 141-159 (with Chris Plouffe and Joe Cote).
    • Researchers have long assumed that existing methods of classifying influence tactics accurately describe similarities in the way salespeople use tactics, and the effects of using those tactics, in practice. This study does not find support for this perspective. Instead, our results suggest that effective influence may be more personal and idiosyncratic than is often acknowledged in our models of salesperson influence.
  • Why Are Some Salespeople Better at Adapting to Organizational Change?Journal of Marketing (2010), 74 (3), 65-79 (with Michael Ahearne, Son K. Lam, and John Mathieu).
    • Given that organizational change efforts are often won or lost in the front-lines, salespeople are constantly called upon to perform in the face of change. This study empirically examines the longitudinal influences of salespeople’s goal orientations (learning and performance) on performance trajectories during a planned intervention in order to understand why some salespeople are better at adapting to change than others.
    • This study was also featured as a Research Brief titled “Performance Orientation or Learning Orientation: Which Helps Salespeople Better Adapt to Organizational Change?” in Academy of Management Perspectives 2010.
  • Managing the Drivers of Organizational Commitment and Salesperson Effort: An Application of Meyer and Allen’s Three-Component Model,” Journal of Marketing Theory & Practice (2009), 17 (4), 335-350 (with Frank Fu and Eli Jones)
    • Organizational commitment (OC) has been established as an important job attitude, yet managers lack knowledge regarding how to influence OC and what types of OC are actually useful in driving salesperson effort. This study decomposes OC into its components and finds that OC based on a salesperson’s intrinsic values (normative) does not drive effort, but OC that stems from excitement and emotion (affective) does.
    • This study was republished in 2013 in a special virtual issue featuring the 10 most cited articles published in the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice from 2008-2012.
  • Product Innovativeness, Customer Newness, and New Product Performance: A Time-Lagged Examination of the Impact of Salesperson Selling Intentions on New Product Performance,” Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management (2008), 28 (4), 351-364 (with Frank Fu and Eli Jones).
    • New product (NP) development represents an area of intense corporate investment and the sales force plays a key role in the success of NP launches. This study examines the impact of characteristics of the NP and of the customer on salespeople’s NP selling intentions and the eventual product performance.

Google Scholar Profile



Sample Clients (Research and/or Training)