Barriers to the use of mobile sales force automation systems: a salesperson’s perspective

Date11 May 2015
Publication Date11 May 2015
AuthorJaakko Sinisalo,Heikki Karjaluoto,Saila Saraniemi
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Information systems
Barriers to the use of mobile
sales force automation systems:
a salesperson’s perspective
Jaakko Sinisalo
School of Business and Information Management,
Oulu University of Applied Sciences, Oulu, Finland
Heikki Karjaluoto
School of Business and Economics, University of Jyväskylä,
Jyväskylä, Finland, and
Saila Saraniemi
Oulu Business School, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the barriers associated with the adoption and use
of mobile sales force automation (SFA) systems from a salesperson’s perspective.
Design/methodology/approach A qualitative investigation of two business-to-business
companies was conducted. Data collected from ten semi-structured interviews with directors or sales
managers were analyzed to understand the main barriers to SFA system adoption.
Findings The study conrms the existence of three barriers (customer knowledge, quality of
information and the characteristics of mobile devices) to a mobile SFA system use and identies two
additional barriers: lack of time and optimization issues.
Research limitations/implications The explorative nature of the study and the qualitative
method employed limit the generalizability of the results. The propositions could be further validated
and tested with a wider population.
Practical implications – Organizations wishing to speed the adoption of a mobile SFA system
should evaluate the importance and signicance of the ve identied barriers to adoption, and plan how
to overcome them. It is important for the providers of the mobile SFA systems to focus on developing
systems that can exploit the different characteristics of each channel and, in parallel, overcome the
inherent limitations of any single channel. The content of an SFA system should be customizable for
each type of mobile device.
Originality/value – Ever increasing mobility has led to a rise in the use of smartphones and tablet
PCs (tablets) in business and the consequent growth in the use of SFA systems. Although SFA systems
have been studied for roughly 30 years, little is known of the impact of newly developed mobile devices
on sales management and sales personnel.
Keywords Technology adoption, Customer relationship management, Mobile systems, IT services,
Wireless technology
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
The sales function is viewed as being a part of conceiving, producing and delivering
customer value by understanding and meeting customer needs by supplying goods and
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
A salesperson’s
Received 30 September 2014
Revised 23 January 2015
Accepted 1 February 2015
Journalof Systems and
Vol.17 No. 2, 2015
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JSIT-09-2014-0068
services appropriate to those needs (e.g. Jones et al., 2005;Weitz and Bradford, 1999).
Accordingly, sales is a boundary-spanning function with a more or less explicit role to
produce value in business relationships with customers (Haas et al., 2012). The emerging
use of technology by salespeople is evident through the growing use of sales force
automation (SFA) products and cutting-edge communication technology deployed in
the eld (Clark et al., 2007).
The main changes affecting the sales function are globalization, increased customer
focus and an increasing use of SFA systems (Sheth and Sharma, 2008). Although SFA
has been dened in various ways, all the scholarly denitions relate to the application of
information technology to support the sales function in an organization (Buttle et al.,
2006). SFA helps organizations manage their sales pipelines by collecting and storing
customer data such as their demographics, purchasing history, preferences and
situation in the sales pipeline in the system. SFA is thus part of a company’s customer
relationship management (CRM) system and typically the rst function, (others being
marketing and customer service) that is automated with the help of CRM technology.
Academic research on SFA started in the early 1980s; it is categorized under four
(1) adoption of SFA by organizations;
(2) the impact of SFA on an organization;
(3) success or failure of SFA projects; and
(4) sales force adoption of SFA (Buttle et al., 2006), of which also this study is an
From a managerial viewpoint, implementation of mobile SFA is found to improve sales
force productivity by up to 150 per cent (Aberdeen Group, 2007). Sales force productivity
is increased by allowing sales representatives real-time access to enterprise data such as
customer contact information, sales history, pricing and products on mobile devices.
The increasing spread of new mobile devices, specically smart phones and tablets, is
generating growing interest in SFA systems, allowing sales teams to sell more
efciently by replacing heavier, larger and lower mobility devices such as laptops, and
reducing the need to print and carry sales support materials. According to Gartner
(2011), SFA, sales presentations and sales ordering systems are the top commercial
business applications for tablets. As the sales of tablets and smartphones is growing
year by year and has surpassed the sales of desktop PCs and laptops (Gartner, 2013),
more and more industries are investing in these new technologies. In addition, the
consumerization trend related to mobile devices, meaning people bring their own
devices to work, has resulted in companies rethinking their mobile SFA strategy (Harris
et al., 2012).
Organizations are increasingly taking advantage of mobile technologies focusing on
the performance of work instead of the location. Depending on the industry, mobilizing
the workforce could prove to be key enablers and differentiators of service. It seems that
to become mainstream activity, the benets of a mobile workforce should be
demonstrated to and accepted by the management (McIntosh and Baron, 2005). Indeed,
according to DelVecchio and Seeman (2007), the strategic orientation of the rm (i.e.
level of customer focus) also predicts the adoption of wireless technology by the eld
sales force. They suggest that taking mobile capabilities as part of a sales strategy

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