Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to bridge the glaring gap in the sales literature due to the deficiency of historical research on the adoption of technology in personal selling and the resultant impacts on sales roles. Design/methodology/approach – This paper traces the early adoption of technology by the sales force through information obtained from an extensive review of published works covering a nearly 130‐year timeframe. Where possible, efforts are made to chronicle the early use of these technologies by citing examples from historical publications of applications in selling situations. Findings – In the exciting internet era, it is often unrecognized that adopting the latest technology in selling is a long, ongoing process which can be traced back at least to the beginning of professional personal selling in the mid‐1800s when the industrial revolution enabled dramatic increases in manufactured products. A review of the literature suggests that sales forces were often early adopters of new technologies that laid the groundwork for taking on new or expanded sales roles. With each new invention and its creative adoption and adaption to selling, new sales roles have been created or ongoing ones expanded or significantly modified. Many of the roles still entrusted to today's sales force are arguably linked to a succession of technological adoptions that occurred between the 1850s and 1980s. Originality/value – From a historical perspective, this paper examines sales force technology development from the 1850s through the 1980s and the resultant impacts on sales force roles. To date, this historic technology‐sales force role relationship has not been adequately recognized or addressed in the sale literature. The analyses presented in the present study should prove useful for academics, students, and practitioners in the sales and marketing fields as well as researchers examining business history.
Journal of Historical Research in Marketing – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 3, 2011
Keywords: History; Innovation; Information technology; Sales force; Selling methods
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