Individual actors are hardly ever considered in business-to-business marketing literature. This paper uses Service-dominant Logic and Neo-institutional Theory as the bases for twelve case studies. These case studies provide a better understanding of how individuals who represent firms make sense of the social rules, norms, procedures, values, and beliefs of the network (i.e. institutional logics) where they are embedded and how the business interaction is shaped by those influences, through the individual behaviour. This paper makes two main contributions. First, we develop an empirical model of how individuals consider the institutional logics of the network in interactions with suppliers. Second, we present three patterns of individual behavior in interactions, different from what is often assumed by business-to-business researchers. Managerial contributions are also pointed out.
Individual actors are almost absent from business-to-business literature. Let us take, for example, a look at the relationship between individual actors and business interaction or networks, two of the main concepts of business-to business literature. Interaction is “an economic process through which all of the aspects of business, including physical, financial, and human resources, take their form and are changed or transformed” (Håkansson, Ford, Gadde, Snehota, & Waluszewski, 2009, p. 33). Interaction between two businesses can be analyzed by studying how two organizational actors interact or by focusing on how specific resources, products, activities or individual actors interact (Håkansson et al., 2009). However, as emphasized by Guercini, La Rocca, Runfola, and Snehota (2014) and La Rocca, Hoholm, and Mørk (2017), few studies explore the influence of individual actors in the interaction process. The network approach, widely accepted in business-to-business literature, builds on the premise that firms maintain interdependent relations with several other actors in order to prosper. When taking this approach, researchers consider that a business phenomenon is embedded in a specific network and, therefore, the phenomenon in question cannot be understood without considering its networked context (Håkansson & Snehota, 1995). Research carried out through the network lens brought to light the influence exerted by social network phenomena on business interactions. In particular, Service-dominant Logic (SdL) researchers concluded that interaction towards value creation is coordinated through social rules, norms, procedures, values, and beliefs characterizing each network, or ecosystem to use SdL parlance (Akaka, Vargo, & Lusch, 2013; Chandler & Lusch, 2014; Edvardsson, Kleinaltenkamp, Tronvoll, Mchugh, & Windahl, 2014; Vargo & Lusch, 2016). However, there is a lack of works explicitly addressing how this phenomenon unfolds. Several Service-dominant Logic researchers identify this gap and assert the importance of addressing it as a research topic (e.g. Akaka et al., 2014; Chandler & Lusch, 2014; Edvardsson et al., 2014; Edvardsson, Tronvoll, & Gruber, 2011; Vargo & Lusch, 2011, 2016).