Communication Preferences of Business-to-Business Buyers for Receiving Initial Sales Messages: A Comparison of Media Channel Selection Theories
Recent research on media channel selection theories has called for studies exploring communication in interorganizational business relationships and for specific work functions. The present study addresses this need through an exploration of buyer-seller communication practices in business-to-business contexts. Based on a survey of buyers, it offers a comparison of e-mail and voice mail with an emphasis on preferences for initial or cold call sales messages. The study design compares the explanatory power of three prominent theories of media channel selection: media richness theory, channel expansion theory, and media synchronicity theory. Results indicate that e-mail and voice mail/phone are the most frequently used media channels for business-to-business sales communication. Buyers preferred to receive initial messages from new salespeople by e-mail. Voice mail and phone are preferred for specific processes in established relationships, including conflict resolution, negotiations, and relationship building. Of the three theoretical models, media synchronicity theory offered the most thorough and robust account of buyer media preferences and channel selection rationales. Congruent with the expectations of media synchronicity theory, buyers preferred e-mail for communication processes characterized by the conveyance of information due to its capabilities for information processing. In particular, buyers preferred the higher parallelism of e-mail—including its capabilities for engaging in multiple conversations simultaneously—as it supported multitasking working styles.