Planning for the Introduction of Mobile Applications to Support the Sales Force: A Value-Based Approach

Planning for the Introduction of Mobile Applications to Support the Sales Force: A Value-Based Approach

Chihab BenMoussa (Abo Akademi University, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-378-4.ch003
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Performance gains from SFA investments have often been obstructed by the sales force’s unwillingness to accept and use available systems. Studies show that a strong reason for resistance by the sales force to the technology is the failure to convince salespeople of the advantages and benefits of the new technology. Consequently firms face the challenge of selecting SFA technologies that their sales force will perceive as valuable and accept to use to enhance its performance. This issue becomes more challenging when it comes to introducing emerging technologies such as mobile technologies, where there is a risk of falling into the trap of overestimating/underestimating their potential value. The present study proposes a value-based approach for planning the introduction of Mobile applications to support the sales force. The approach suggested provides guidelines on how to determine whether or not mobile technologies would add value to the sales force before those technologies actually get selected and implemented. Good planning of SFA investment would help firms avoid resistance of the sales force towards the implemented systems, rather than having to treat it at the post-implementation stage.
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Despite the impressive advances in hardware and software capabilities the troubling problem of underutilized systems continues. Low usage of installed systems has been identified as a major factor underlying the “productivity paradox” surrounding lacklustre returns from organizational investments in information technology. (Venkatesh and Davis, 2000, p 186).

The above problem is highly relevant to the sales force. In recent years the issue of motivating the sales force to adopt sales force automation (SFA) technology has come to the forefront in both practitioner publications and academic research.

SFA occurs when firms apply information and communication technologies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of sales-related-activities, notably the sales force channel. SFA can be applied to support many sales force’s tasks such as contact management, scheduling, targeting, forecasting, mapping out sales routes, prospecting, making sales presenting, reporting sales encounters, collaborating with colleagues, retrieving sales information, documenting buyers’ objections and gathering important customer and competitor data that feed marketing decisions (Widmier, Jackson, & McCabe, 2002; Engle & Barnes, 2000). In 1996 SFA was a US$ 1.5 billion industry (Rivers & Dart, 1996) and the global market for SFA software was predicted to reach $4.5 billion by 2004 (Rangarajan et al.2005), and was predicted to grow significantly in the future. The cost per sales person for SFA is estimated to be US$5000 to US$15000 per year (Honeycutt et al.2005).

To date 55-80 per cent of SFA projects have been unsuccessful (Honeycutt, 2005; Rigby et al. 2002).According to a leading IT consulting agency, 60 per cent of sales personnel report not using available SFA technology (Dulaney, 1996). The main reason cited by sales representatives is that SFA did not help them in the most important aspects of their job: face-to-face customer meetings. As a result, given that firms invest between US$5000 and US$15,000 per salesperson in SFA projects, failure rates at even one half of this magnitude indicate that firms may not be recouping their technology investment (Honeycutt, 2005). Aside from the obvious negative effect on company profits such failure can also hinder sales force performance and potential customer satisfaction (Jones et al., 2002)

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