By Amber Kennedy

Old Dominion University faculty will embark on research into negotiations related to COVID-19 vaccination and sales tactics with the support of new grants from the Thurmond Negotiations Lab in the Strome College of Business.

The lab awarded its inaugural Broadening Research and Instruction in Negotiations Grant (BRING) funding to projects by Veronica Thomas, associate professor in marketing, and Brandi Woodell and Katie Slauson-Blevins, professors of sociology.

In her research, Thomas will examine "The Influence of a Salesperson's Favor Request on Consumers' Evaluation of the Negotiation." Thomas is interested in whether asking for a favor - thereby requesting an act of kindness - can be employed as a successful tactic for negotiating a sale.

Research shows, on average, consumers have negative perceptions of salespeople and the negotiation process, Thomas said. But research also finds consumers usually end up receiving a better deal when they negotiate.

"We wanted to determine if there was a way for the salesperson to engage with the consumer that would ultimately result in the consumer feeling more positive toward the negotiation process," she said.

Thomas wants to see if a request for a favor that seems unrelated to the negotiation affects customers' perceptions of the process. Some research has found that when a salesperson offers to do a favor for the customer, it arouses suspicion. Thomas and her colleagues - Dora Bock of Auburn University and Stephanie Mangus of Baylor University - anticipate when a salesperson asks a consumer for an unrelated favor, it will positively influence the consumer's perception of their motives and overall evaluation of the negotiation.

In their proposal, "Examining Negotiations on COVID-19 Vaccines: Understanding the Impact of Exchange and Power Relationships on Vaccine Hesitancy Among Family Members," Woodell and Slauson-Blevins will explore how family members negotiated with each other about getting the vaccine.

The researchers are interested in understanding the motivations behind vaccine hesitancy in situations — such as families — where it is important an individual considers others in their decision-making. "We will explore negotiation tactics within families to understand how these relationships influence a person's decision to get vaccination," Woodell said.

Woodell and Slauson-Blevins will interview family members throughout Hampton Roads and the commonwealth to build on theoretical understandings of negotiations and the role they can play in public health.

"Both projects will provide important insights into the process of negotiating," said Aaron Arndt, director of the Thurmond Negotiations Lab and associate professor of marketing. "The range of departments represented indicates that the field of negotiations is truly multidisciplinary. We are excited to see the outcome of these projects over the coming years."

The Thurmond Negotiations Lab provides negotiation skills to underserved Hampton Roads communities, with a vision to empower women. In addition to the local community, the lab serves ODU students, business professionals and academic scholars.

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