Companies that throw technology at salespeople to try to increase sales and profits often waste their money, a study has shown.
Although £17 billion a year is spent on sales force automation and software to manage customer relations, very few sales reps use the technology, said Michael Ahearne, assistant professor of marketing at Penn State University's Smeal College of Business.
He said industry reports suggest that the take-up rate of sales technology can be as low as 25 per cent. Many companies believe this is the result of technophobia.
Professor Ahearne surveyed 257 sales representatives and their managers in more than 50 companies across a range of industries to help find a way to motivate sales staff to adopt technology.
He concluded that sales forces will embrace a new system only if they believe it will improve their productivity: "This finding is not surprising considering that salespeople are the most performance-oriented of white-collar workers."
Companies ought to consider introducing systems by first targeting "innovative" salespeople who will encourage their peers to adopt it. Acceptance of the technology by others clearly signalled its benefits and created social pressure for others to follow suit, Professor Ahearne said. Managers had an important role to play as advocates of change.
The researcher warned firms and designers that a new system must be easy to use. A difficult one would be little used. Ease of use also reinforced the idea that the system is increasing productivity.
The studyfound that pressure from customers for sales reps to use technology was not a significant factor.
Smeal College of Business: