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Two persons in business negotiation

Research shows the importance of interpersonal communication competence in international solution sales

Researchers from the UEF Business School have created a new theoretical concept that describes the decree of diversity of interpersonal communication competence required in international B2B solution sales. Earlier studies have identified important interpersonal skills, such as that of listening and that of adapting communications. Affective dimension of communication, such as emotional intelligence, has also been studied earlier. However, this is the first study that produces a comprehensive theoretical understanding of sales communication competence needed particularly in international B2B solution selling context. The study was published in the distinguished Industrial Marketing Management journal.

The business environment of international B2B sales has become increasingly complex and global. The results of the study by Jonna Koponen, Saara Julkunen and Akiko Asai show that in order to succeed in international competition, sales managers and solution salespersons need better and better sales communication competence which consist of four components: interpersonal communication skills, cognitive communication dimension, affective communication dimension and sales acumen. Interpersonal communication skills include the skills of creating relationships; personal selling skills and language skills. The cognitive communication dimension refers to an understanding of different negotiation styles and strategies, nonverbal communication, communication theories, different cultures and ways of saving face. It is also a case of knowing how to assess one’s own communication behaviour. The affective communication dimension means that sales managers and solution salespersons must have the motivation to interact with different people, they must be willing to learn more about new people and sales, and they must be culturally sensitive and have a positive attitude towards interaction. The fourth dimension discovered in the study was sales acumen, without which efficient and appropriate interaction will not succeed. Sales acumen refers to profound strategic understanding of the customer, the customer’s business models and the sales process. Sales acumen also involves the sales manager’s ability to create added value for the customer, create common business goals, produce creative and analytical solutions, lead sales teams and manage the use of time.

The study provides important guidelines for further research on interpersonal communication in sales as well as practical tips for developing the competence of international sales managers and for choosing the contents of sales training.

Availability of the publication:

Koponen, J., Julkunen, S. & Asai, A. (2019). Sales communication competence in international B2B solution selling. Industrial Marketing Management.

Link to the publication

Further information:

Jonna Koponen, Accreditation Director, Business School, tel. +358 50 343 7446, jonnapauliina.koponen(at)

Saara Julkunen, Assistant Professor, Head of Department, Business School, tel. +358 40 355 3365, saara.julkunen(at)