Growing and Aligning Networks to Grow Profit
Dr. Aditya Gupta, who joined Texas State in 2018, describes himself as a lifelong “tech geek” who is interested in the way relationship-building in marketing and sales networks affects the bottom line in industrial and technological sales. In explaining his pursuit of his Ph.D., as well as his recent research, Gupta reflects that a mentor once advised him that “while working at one company you can help solve their problems, but when you research you can help impact numerous companies.” Accordingly, Gupta’s research focuses on business-to-business marketing, specifically how sellers can “build better relationships between businesses so that they can serve the buyer better, and in the process improve their sales and profitability.”
Gupta’s research applies social network analysis in the context of key account management, examining how profitability is affected by the density and makeup of within-seller team networks and buyer-seller networks. His most recent paper on the subject was published in the Journal of Marketing, a top-tier research journal. It is the first paper by a Texas State University faculty member to be published in that journal.
Gupta’s study was the first in publication to use a cross-level network perspective to study key account management network attributes and relational ties, and this innovation produced unexpected results. Prior studies have viewed centralization within teams as a negative factor in terms of profitability. In contrast, after interviewing 207 key account managers identified in a variety of buyer-to-buyer industries, Gupta found a complex, interactive relationship between buyer-seller networks and within-buyer networks.
Focusing on network density (the proportion of real to potential connections) and the previously mentioned buyer-seller, within-seller networks, Gupta found that the critical factor is alignment.
Ensuring that cross-functional teams facilitate communication between functional counterparts from buyers’ and sellers’ networks can improve profitability in key accounts by as much as 4 percent, which can translate into millions of dollars in context of large key accounts. Gupta explains that businesses marketing technical solutions need team members with a technical background who can communicate with the buyer's team to understand and facilitate solutions. Gupta’s analysis of the potential efficacy of cross-functional teams flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that all that’s needed is an experienced salesperson driving the relationship.
In addition to his own research, Gupta teaches undergraduate Sales Management and Directed Studies in Professional Sales classes focusing on the role of sales managers, sales management function and technology adoption in sales context, respectively. Gupta also actively supports the Center for Professional Sales. Gupta says he was excited to take responsibility for aspects of the center because it was “aligned with my research and teaching interests.” He sees the center as invaluable for “ensuring that our students graduate with the skills that set them apart and enable them to get good-paying sales jobs, while building the Texas State and McCoy College brand.” In this role, Gupta coached a team that qualified for the 2019 International Collegiate Sales Competition, Sales Management track. Texas State participated and qualified for the first time in this track, competing against 86 other university teams.
Gupta is currently working on translating his Journal of Marketing paper into a practitioner-oriented paper, to help businesses put into practice the insights of his study. That process has allowed him to revisit his rich array of data, and in doing so, he says, “We realized that there are certain aspects of our complex data set that aren’t documented anywhere, but when I talk to people, especially practitioners, they say ‘Oh wow, that’s awesome, we never thought about it that way but now that you say it, it makes sense.’” Through this future publication, he hopes to provide practical key account management strategies for developing more productive and profitable business-to-business relationships.