Researchers win prestigious award from top U.S. journal

Dr. Kirby Shannahan and Dr. Rachelle Shannahan

Dr. Kirby Shannahan and Dr. Rachelle Shannahan

Aug. 20, 2014

Husband and wife researchers from the Faculty of Business Administration have won a prestigious award from the top international journal for selling and sales management.

Dr. Kirby Shannahan and Dr. Rachelle Shannahan have won the James M. Comer Award for best contribution to selling and sales management theory from the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management. It is the only research-based journal in the fields of personal selling and sales management.

“[I feel] overwhelmed, humbled and honoured. We worked so hard to get that paper published – that in itself was an incredible achievement given that conceptual papers in general are so difficult to get published. For our work to be recognized in this is just tremendous,” says Dr. Rachelle Shannahan.

“To be in the same company as such greats as Tom Ingram, Raymond LaForge, David Cravens and Doug Hoffman, among others who have won this award, is just – wow!” adds Dr. Kirby Shannahan.

The duo published their paper, “Making Sense of the Customer’s Role in the Personal Selling Process: A Theory of Organizing and Sensemaking Perspective,” in 2013. It was co-authored by Dr. Alan Bush of the University of Memphis and Dr. William Moncrief of Texas Christian University.

The article was chosen by members of the editorial review and senior advisory boards for consideration for the award and went through two rounds of voting before emerging as the winner. Only one paper is chosen each year to win the prize.

“Our article argues for the adoption of the theory of organizing and sense-making framework as the theoretical underpinning of the personal selling process in a relational selling context,” says Dr. Rachelle Shannahan. “We argue that one should recognize the personal selling process as a more prescriptive customer-involved interpretation system concerned with uncertainty reduction during and between every customer-salesperson interaction.”

The concept encourages the inclusion of customers as equal participants in the selling process.

“We knew heading into the review process that we were advocating something quite radical, and that many may not be ready to accept what we’re trying to put forward,” says Dr. Kirby Shannahan. “Ours is a unique perspective of the buyer-selling relationship as it argues to make the customer an integral part of the personal selling process. This new perspective allows for customers and salespeople to be active participants in and contributors to the personal selling and organizational learning process.”

The Shannahans joined the business faculty at Memorial in 2009, where Dr. Rachelle Shannahan is an assistant professor of marketing and Dr. Kirby Shannahan is an associate professor of marketing. The couple has been collaborating together on their research for over 10 years. As graduate students, they were awarded best paper for the marketing education track of the American Society of Business and Behavioural Sciences’ 2006 conference for “Independent Research: An Exploratory Look at Single Author Publications by Young Researchers in Marketing’s Top Journals.”

Individually, they each also won the Direct Selling Education Foundation Dissertation Proposal Research Grant from the American Marketing Association Sales Special Interest Group. Dr. Kirby Shannahan won in 2006 and Dr. Rachelle was awarded the grant in 2007.

Winning the James M. Comer Award helps raises their individual profiles as well as enhances the reputation of Memorial’s business faculty, the couple says.

“For us, an award like this does a couple of things. Locally, it raises the profile of the work we are doing here at the Faculty of Business Administration to those around us who might not be so familiar with our line of research,” says Dr. Rachelle Shannahan.

“Beyond the local recognition, this award establishes us as serious and competent scholars capable of doing world-class research, which is desirable at any stage in one’s career ... It reinforces that we are on to something that people are paying attention to. To make this kind of contribution is what we all hope for.”

Dr. Kirby Shannahan adds that it also points to the importance of scholars working collaboratively to further research in their fields.

“Winning this award is particularly rewarding as it honours the value of collaboration with research partners within our faculty and institution,” he says. “As most of our research network is in the United States, we are fortunate that we have one another to collaborate with. I think this award validates the calibre of our work and the value of internal and external research collaborations.”

Susan White