The effect of rhetoric in personal selling : An observational study of how IKEA uses rhetoric in their sales interactions

University essay from Högskolan i Jönköping/IHH, Marketing and Logistics; Högskolan i Jönköping/IHH, Marketing and Logistics


Background: Rhetoric can be traced back to antiquity and is today a well used tool within marketing and persuasion. Although rhetoric is said to be the art of persuasion there is a lack of research concerning rhetoric used in personal selling, even though persuasion is one of the most important aspects of personal selling. Personal selling is said to be an underlying factor for companies marketing success, therefore the authors see the importance of researching the relationship between rhetoric and personal selling. To be able to investigate how rhetoric effects personal selling, this thesis was conducted in cooperation with IKEA Jönköping. Through the cooperation with IKEA Jönköping, the authors will gain a unique real-life insight into the phenomenon.

Purpose: This thesis aims to understand how rhetoric is used, and what effects the phenomenon has on the interaction between a customer and a sales person.

Method: Since very little was previously researched within the use of rhetoric in personal selling, the foundation for the primary data collection was based on the theoretical framework that was developed. 112 observations and 30 semi-structured interviews were conducted during 9 days, in order to observe the phenomenon in its natural environment.

Conclusion: When used correctly, arguments (Logos) were used in order to persuade the customer, character (Ethos) created a higher credibility of the sales person and emotional and personal associations (Pathos) lead customers being more trusting towards the sellers. If expertise and a strong character were absent in the interactions the sales persons were generally not successful in increasing customer’s attitudes and purchase intentions. When using the rhetorical methods correctly trust, credibility, loyalty and a positive customer attitude could be achieved by the sales person.

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