SELLING MACHINES WITH VISUALS - Interaction Analysis of Granularity in Sensemaking and Persuasive Sales Logics

Mikko Illi

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


Selling industrial machines is becoming a broader and a more complex field of interaction, which is transforming the use of visuals into a more abstract form. Handing over glossy brochures during machine sales is changing in favour of selling services, solutions and related value estimations, all of which are harder to represent visually to prospective buyers. Today, sales representatives communicate value with charts, graphs, tables, infographics, simulations and specified calculators. These visuals are used in face-to-face interaction as well as being modified with buyers. Two prior approaches in value communication concentrate on storytelling for emotional sales arguments and value calculators for quantifying monetary arguments. These existing approaches leave a research gap in academia around the use of visual representations in value communication. The present research illuminates this under-researched theme by empirically investigating two industrial companies selling lift trucks and paper machines to customer companies. This investigation applied ethnographic fieldwork and interaction analysis methods to generate detailed knowledge on the development and use of visuals. The primary case study analysed a videoed sales meeting on a machine solution with added services. Supportive cases included other sales contexts around selling automation systems, maintenance services and value agreements for factories. The results showed that the dynamics of machine sales can be divided into sensemaking and persuasive selling. The sensemaking logic was about configuring the object of the sale. Sensemaking visualisation varied regarding the technical complexity of machines, the broadness of selling a product and service solution, the credibility of the value or the abstract and intangible characteristics of services. Persuasive use of visuals was about delicate interactions and dominated by conversational dynamics with professional knowledge, decision power and emotional involvement. More specifically, visuals were used differently when building rapport with buyers, presenting sales proposals and facing objections or complaints from buyers about the business history. With visual representations, sales representatives can communicate customer-specific and transparent estimations of value. Visuals can connect configurations to the use value of machines and to the realised monetary value estimations that go beyond transaction costs. The statement of the present research to academia is to continue design processes into the use of visuals in industrial sales processes and to conceptualise granularity of interaction. The granularity concept in knowledge visualisation science also aims to improve the observation and analysis of sales interactions in the future.
Translated title of the contributionKONEIDEN MYYMINEN VISUALISOINNEILLA
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Keinonen, Turkka, Supervising Professor
  • Whalen, Jack, Thesis Advisor
  • Keinonen, Turkka, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-64-0919-1
Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-0920-7
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • collaborative knowledge visualisation
  • granularity
  • interaction analysis
  • machine industry
  • sales interaction


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