The drivers influencing the relationship between sales representatives and customers and the impact this relationship has on sales volume within Coca-Cola's Western Cape region
South African Journal of Business Management
University of Stellenbosch Business School, PO Box 610, Bellville 7535, South Africa; Franchise Manager Forbes Group (Western Cape), Coca-Cola South Africa (Pty) Ltd., Western Cape, South Africa
Companies within the FMCG sector are continually trying to create value from their brands by increasing their margins and/or selling more of their products. Taking cost out of the value chain gives the company a competitive advantage, but this advantage is short lived as competitors also reduce costs. Differentiating a product through enhanced features and benefits also provides a competitive advantage, but is also subject to imitation by rivals. As competition increases, companies are looking for new avenues to differentiate themselves. Relationship marketing has, as a result, increased its prevalence as a competitive tool to provide that point of difference. This research investigated the factors that influence the relationships between a Coca-Cola sales representative and his/her customers within the Cape Town region. This article was developed after studying literature as it pertained to customer relationship marketing. From the literature the foundation blocks in developing buyer-seller relationships were studied. The research methodology tested the impact of certain factors on the ability to build a relationship between buyer and seller and then tested the validity of those answers using underlying determinants of a relationship. These determinants included the ability to communicate, the ability to trust, the degree of loyalty and the ability to influence a customer. The response to the questionnaires was extremely high (over 95%) and provided for a robust evaluation of data. The research showed that there was a positive correlation between the profile of a sales representative and a customer. It is easier for a sales representative to build a relationship with a customer who is a similar age. It is however easier for the sales representative to influence a younger customer. Gender plays no role in a sales representative's ability to build a relationship. With respect to education, a stronger relationship exists between a customer and sales representative of a similar education. Again it is easier for a representative to influence a customer who has a lower level of education. Race does have an impact on the ability to build relationships. The research showed that an African sales representative should service an African customer. There was a positive link between matching sales representatives and customers who come from similar areas and have the same religion. There was no correlation between the degree of the relationship that a Coca-Cola sales representative in the Western Cape region has with a customer and the sales growth within the outlets. This final conclusion must be read in the context of the relative high market share that the Coca-Cola Company has in the Western Cape.