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The Impact of the Internet on B2B Sales Force Size and Structure - Abstract


Murali K. Mantrala (, Christian Albrechts University, Kiel Germany
Sönke Albers (, University of Missouri


The central focus of this chapter is an examination of the effects of Internet-based technologies on B2B sales channels, sales force investments, organization, resource allocation, and management. Over the last decade, the Internet appears to be disrupting many classical models of B2B sales organization and sales resource allocation. New technologies like 'software as a service', cloud computing, ‘Sales 2.0’ etc., continue to emerge at a dizzying pace, each promising to transform and/or improve the traditional functions of B2B sales agents and personal selling. However, research of these developments and their implications as well as systematic reviews by B2B marketing scholars are sparse. The chapter will comprehensively review how Internet technologies are affecting stages of the archetypal B2B selling process. The goal is to suggest propositions, frameworks, and directions for future practice and research. We expect the chapter to be of value to B2B sales managers, governments, policy makers, and academics across the globe. More specifically, the chapter will address questions such as:

Selling Process

  • How is the Internet altering the mix of selling activities and the stages or steps of the traditional industrial selling process, and under what conditions?

  • How is the Internet impacting leads generation and sales funnel optimization?

  • Is the Internet shortening or lengthening average selling cycles?

Sales channels mix

  • What is the general trend in B2B firms’ investments in Internet-based sales technologies and what are the determinants of variation in the patterns of these investments?

  • How is the mix of marketing investments across multiple sales channels including web-based and sales rep-based channels as well as call-centers changing?

  • Is the Internet leading to more or less outsourcing of the sales function?

  • What assumptions and objective functions are realistic for formulating models for the optimal allocation of marketing resources across web-based and direct sales channels?

Sales force size

  • Is there a general trend toward downsizing direct sales forces in a climate of advancing B2B sales technologies?

  • How should optimal B2B sales force sizes be determined in the Internet age?

Sales force structure

  • What are the effects of Internet-based sales technologies on B2B sales force structure? Rather than the traditional generalist sales forces organized by geographic territory, are sales forces become more specialized by product? By customer? By function?

  • Is the Internet leading to more or less use of (virtual) team selling and in what kind of markets and environmental conditions?

Sales force management

  • How is the Internet altering B2B sales force recruitment & training, and compensation strategies?

  • Is the Internet raising or lowering average compensation levels and the average fixed to variable pay ratio for B2B salespeople? Is it inducing more profit-sharing plans?

Sales force productivity

  • Is the Internet leading to, on average, salespeople handling more or less customers? Generating more or less sales per representative? Generating more or less sales per customer? Generating more customer acquisitions or retentions?

  • How does sales force productivity compare with web channel-based productivity for the B2B marketer using multiple channels?

The Handbook of Business-to-Business Marketing

This chapter is part of the ISBM Handbook of Business-to-Business Marketing, edited by Professors Gary Lilien and Raj Grewal. The Handbook of Business-to-Business Marketing is available from Edward Elgar Publishing and other online book retailers.

As the authors retain the copyright to their chapters, only they have the right to use or distribute their chapter. If you would like a copy of this chapter, please contact the author or authors directly through their emails included above.

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