The image of the salesperson shuffling from customer to customer with a satchel full of wares is ancient history.
Today’s sales force hits the streets armed with cell phones, PDAs, and laptops, plus spreadsheets and other software programs that provide the data and analytic capabilities needed to build and maintain customer satisfaction.
How can companies and their sales managers ensure that these high-tech tools are helping boost sales performance and providing a good return on their investments?
Gary K. Hunter
“Our research sets out to answer that very question,” said Gary K. Hunter, assistant professor in the Department of Marketing in the college.
He and William D. Perreault Jr., PhD, an esteemed expert in the marketing field and professor of business at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, recently co-authored a research paper titled “Sales Technology, Information Effectiveness, and Sales Performance.” It was published in the Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, one of the leading journals in the sales and marketing field.
What every sales manager wants to know is: Does it work?
“Sales managers need a practical means for evaluating returns from investments in sales technology tools,” Hunter said. “That includes sales automation and sales-based customer relationship management (CRM) systems.”
The study applies a behavioral process model for evaluating sales technology implementation. The model takes a diagnostic approach to composing and testing processes—with desired outcomes linked to the behavioral tasks that influence them.
“Specifically, we developed and advanced hypotheses about how a salesperson’s orientation toward information technology affects two facets of his or her performance: effectiveness in dealing with customers and efficiency in performing internal tasks, such as recommending how company operations can be improved,” Hunter said.
Smart selling behavior is the goal.
The research sets forth the argument that sales representatives with greater technology orientations are better able to leverage information that should, in turn, facilitate sales planning and adaptive behaviors.
“Simply put, we propose a means for assessing ‘how’ sales technology tools affect key aspects of sales performance that are important for sales managers when evaluating salespeople in the modern relational context,” Hunter said.
Results offer insight and prove hypotheses.
As part of their research, Hunter and Perreault developed and tested their model with data collected from the sales force of a major consumer packaged goods company.
The research results indicate that a salesperson’s technology orientation has a direct impact on his or her internal role performance—and also affects his or her performance with customers.
“We confirmed that sales managers can influence sales technology by providing better internal technology support,” Hunter said. “To ensure maximum effectiveness, we recommend that sales managers consider technology orientation along with the customer approval of technology when making account assignments.”
The research continues.
Studying the impact of sales technology on the selling process is a long-term pursuit that spans Hunter’s business and academic career—ever since he worked in sales management at Procter & Gamble nearly fifteen years ago.
“We are building on the research presented in this recent paper with a follow-up study focused on making technology more effective,” Hunter said. “The research we are doing today relates directly to the challenges companies are facing as they look for ways and to use information technology to make their sales force more efficient and effective.”