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Industrial Marketing Management 38 (2009) 814–824

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Industrial Marketing Management

Diverging expectations in buyer–seller relationships: Institutional contexts and relationship norms
Poul Houman Andersen a,⁎, Poul Rind Christensen a,1, Torben Damgaard b,2
a b

Aarhus School of Business, University of Aarhus, Department of Management, Haslegaardsvej 10, 8210 Aarhus V, Denmark University of Southern Denmark, Department of Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management, Engstien 1, 6000 Kolding, Denmark

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a b s t r a c t
Many firms assume that outsourcing partnerships may allow them to strengthen their overall competitiveness. Lured by its intuitive appeal, several enter into such partnerships, only to realize that they represent a marginal rather than a magical solution to their quest for increasing market performance. An important reason for this is the diverging beliefs and expectations held by both parties in the buyer–seller dyad. The purpose of this contribution is to develop a framework for understanding the divergences in expectations and relationship norms in cross-cultural business relationships among SMEs. We discuss four relational expectations derived from the B2B literature on relational norms for addressing these divergences: Quality, frequency and scope of communication, role specifications and coordination of work nature of planning horizons, and trustworthiness and link these to relationship performance. We explore the proposed impact of diverging relationship norms on relationship expectations using data from an ongoing field study of Danish buyers and Chinese suppliers. We link these diverging expectations to the business practices of Danish buyers and Chinese and their institutional contexts. In the concluding part of the paper, we discuss our findings and outline implications for management and academia. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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