To explore the issue of style over substance during initial contact between salesperson and prospect, the authors introduce the construct, sales presentation quality, to capture the skill with which sales presentations are actually delivered. Drawing upon the communications literature, the authors conceptualize sales presentation quality in terms of the power of a salesperson's language, then compare its effects on persuasion relative to those produced by the quality of the presentation's arguments. Using the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) as a theoretical basis, the authors develop hypotheses that presentation quality style will influence audience attitude as a simple persuasion cue and as an inhibitor/enhancer of argument-related thinking. The results of two experiments generally support these predictions. Additionally, the data support a third role for presentation quality predicted by the ELM; presentation quality itself serves as a relevant argument. Participants appear to use language style as a basis for making inferences about the salesperson, which in turn affects their attitudes toward the salesperson's proposal. Theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.
- Personal selling
- Sales presentation quality