Sandy Jap

The 'squishy' side of B2B

Business relationships fail more often than they succeed. Enter Sandy Jap, an expert in interorganizational relationships, whose research spans industries and organizations in both profit and nonprofit spaces.

"I help business-to-business (B2B) partners grow the pie together to get greater returns," says the professor of marketing at the Goizueta Business School. "As you might imagine, this can get complicated with big companies that need to figure out how to go to market through many wholesalers, retailers, and multiple channel forms."

In her new book for managers, Partnering with the Frenemy, Jap delves into what happens in B2B relationships when things go bad and how to make them go right again. She explores how initial friendships can lead to misperceptions and suspicion whereas the establishment of rapport can create a "stickiness" that has a countering effect and leads to better outcomes faster. Rapport, however, is not a fail-safe; it may backfire in a negative bargaining zone, taking precedence over the client's desires, Jap says. For example, she has seen seasoned executives in an experimental lab setting, in which they have nothing real to lose, "compromise their clients, lie, overpromise, or even throw away their ethics when they have rapport but are unable to get the deal made."

A social behavioral theorist, Jap dubs her area of expertise as the "squishy" side of partnering. But her qualitative relationship perspective is backed by quantitative data. Jap's scholarship spans survey methodologies, secondary datasets, and lab and field experiments.

She brings these analytic techniques to executives and students through the Emory Marketing Analytics Center (MAC), which she helped launch in 2010. Simply put, the MAC's goal is to combine science-based testing and rigor to inform management's vision for the future. There, students and executives alike learn to develop decision-support models based on empirical data and statistical approaches as well as to leverage technologies and processes along with fact-based management to inform decisions.

In one simulation exercise that Jap leads, she teaches students how to go to market, design incentives, and the underlying but all-important factor of relationships. "They start by thinking the lesson is about sales volume and money," Jap explains. "They are given a role as either manufacturer or retailer and a script, but by the end of the experiment, they come out with a bigger revelation: they need each other."