Increasing graduates’ interest in B2B sales: how to dispel lay beliefs, fight stigma, and create a profession of choice

Aline Isabelle Lanzrath, Christian Homburg, Robin-Christopher M. Ruhnau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the pressing talent shortage and the need for well-educated recruits in business-to-business (B2B) sales, understanding how to increase university graduates’ low interest in this profession is vital to sales departments’ competitiveness. To tackle this issue, we adopt a mixed-method approach to investigate the reasons for and measures against graduates’ low interest in B2B sales. First, we develop a comprehensive, theory-based framework to understand the root causes of graduates’ low interest in B2B sales (Study 1). This framework uncovers specific beliefs discouraging graduates from pursuing B2B sales, including negative perceptions of job characteristics, the profession’s prevailing stigma, and negative career success expectations. Second, comparing graduates’ and B2B salespeople’s assessments of B2B sales job characteristics (Study 2), we reveal that graduates hold lay beliefs about B2B sales lacking intrinsic and social job characteristics. As a basis for a solution, we identify the types and combinations of sales exposure required to dispel lay beliefs and create a favorable but realistic picture of B2B sales. Third, combining text analysis of B2B sales labor market communication and conjoint analysis of graduate application drivers (Studies 3a and 3b), we develop guidelines to better align communication and job structures with graduates’ needs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Personal Selling and Sales Management
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2024


  • business-to-business sales
  • sales management
  • sales education
  • sales diversity


Dive into the research topics of 'Increasing graduates’ interest in B2B sales: how to dispel lay beliefs, fight stigma, and create a profession of choice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this