The Sales Force Technology

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THE SALES FORCE TECHNOLOGY–PERFORMANCE CHAIN: THE ROLE OF ADAPTIVE SELLING AND EFFORT Adam Rapp, Raj Agnihotri, and Lukas P. Forbes Firms continue to struggle with the implementation of sales force technology tools and the role they play in sales representative performance. This research expands previous literature in the area of sales force automation (SFA) and customer relationship management (CRM) by looking at the consequences after technology adoption by a sales force. Data were gathered from three sources to include 662 sales representatives, 60 sales managers, and firm archival data. Using structural equation modeling, our findings indicate that SFA usage has a direct impact on effort, thereby reducing number of hours worked, and CRM usage has a direct positive impact on adaptive selling behaviors. Moreover, experience moderates the relationship between CRM usage and adaptive selling. Discussion, limitations, and directions for future research are also discussed.

As competition increases and technology advances, organizations continue to seek ways to adjust to changing business environments. This is especially true in the personal selling context where salespeople are recognized as the boundary spanners and are expected to be relationship managers (Kotler 1984). Today’s salesperson is constrained to do more in less time, and technological advancements have become an integral part of the personal selling and sales management process. Foreseeing this changing environment, Leigh and Tanner (2004) stressed the necessity for sales organizations to focus on technology-related strategies, business processes, and applications, and called on sales researchers to put forth theoretical models and empirical studies investigating these emerging issues. Notably, sales force technology usage has changed the methods of selling. Salespeople are no longer selling just a “product”; instead, they are providing a valuable “solution” to customer problems. Anderson and Dubinsky (2004) discussed the concept of consultative selling, where a salesperson acts as an expert and provides customized solutions. This role requires salespeople to develop a technological orientation to access, analyze, and communicate information in order to establish a strong relationship with customers (Hunter and

Adam Rapp (Ph.D., University of Connecticut), Assistant Professor of Marketing, College of Business Administration (Marketing), Kent State University, arapp1@kent.edu. Raj Agnihotri (MBA, Oklahoma City University), Ph.D. candidate, College of Business Administration (Marketing), Kent State University, ragnihot@kent.edu. Lukas P. Forbes (Ph.D., University of Kentucky), Assistant Professor of Marketing, Ford College of Business, Western Kentucky University, lukas.forbes@wku.edu.

Perreault 2007). Sales technology enables salespeople answering the queries of customers to effectively provide competent solutions. This can lead to strong relationships between a salesperson and a customer. Thus, technology tools are used not only for smoothing the work process but they also have strategic utilizations. To this point, numerous models investigating technology acceptance have been postulated in the literature (Compeau, Higgins, and Huff 1999; Davis, Bagozzi, and Warshaw 1989; Venkatesh and Davis 2000; Venkatesh et al. 2003). These studies focus mainly on finding and examining the variables influencing salespeople’s motivation, or attitudes to adopt technology (Avlonitis and Panagopoulos 2005; Jones, Sundaram, and Chin 2002; Keillor, Barshaw, and Pettijohn 1997; Morgan and Inks 2001; Pullig, Maxham, and Hair 2002; Schillewaert et al. 2005; Speier and Venkatesh 2002). Notably, most existing research has focused on technology adoption with a few notable exceptions. For example, Ahearne et al. (2008) and Hunter and Perreault (2007) investigated the mediating effects of relationship-forging tasks, and Ahearne, Jelinek, and Rapp (2005) proposed moderating effects of...
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