Professor’s research explores the impact of technology on sales team interactions with clients

Assistant Professor Chris Nelson co-authored a recent article in the European Journal of Marketing that proposes a new framework for examining how innovative technological tools might help facilitate or enable the sales process.

Assistant Professor of Marketing Chris Nelson joined with colleagues from other top marketing programs across the country to create a new framework for researching the way sales teams strategically implement technology and how technology affects dynamic business relationships.

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Chris Nelson, assistant professor of marketing

Nelson was one of seven scholars to co-author “Integrating technology within the sales-service ecosystem: the emergent sales techno-ecosystem.” The article appears in the latest issue of the European Journal of Marketing, named among the highest-rated journals on the ABDC Journal Quality List.

The scholars’ framework identifies five tenets to guide future research and applications:

  1. Use Technology Wisely: Companies should aim to use technology in a strategic way to improve how they connect with customers and outperform their competitors.
  2. Different Social Levels Matter: Technology can affect sales at different organizational levels, from individual salespeople to entire industries. Companies should seek to understand these impacts.
  3. Balance Tech and People (i.e., augmentation vs. automation decisions): When using technology in sales, it’s ideal to find the right mix of technology and humans for the best results.
  4. More than Money: Instead of just looking at short-term monetary gains, companies should also measure how technology affects long-term relationships with customers.
  5. Mix Research Methods: To understand how technology changes sales, companies should consider different research methods, like surveys, experiments, and interviews.

The paper notes that more than half of sales professionals believe that technology can enhance buyer relationships, though a third of technology specialists also believe that introducing new technologies can extend project timelines by several months.

That doesn’t even account for those salespeople who hesitate to adopt innovations that may otherwise benefit a firm’s bottom line. Nelson and his colleagues focused their work, in part, “to help untangle the complexities of sales technology implementation.”

“While many tools are available to sales teams to enhance productivity, there exists a real threat of failure when you implement new technology,” Nelson said. “Sales leadership should carefully consider how the strategy for technological tools will enhance relationship-building behaviors with buyers.”

Nelson joined the Elon University faculty in 2020 with research interests in relational selling and sales technology. He teaches classes on the topics of professional selling, sales management, customer relationship management, and marketing research.

Nelson’s research has been published in several high-quality journals, with a separate article on relationship marketing accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of the Industrial Marketing Management Journal.

Nelson plans to use his latest research when teaching Customer Relationship Management. “Students will be given information on common sales technology stacks that they may encounter in the salesforce,” he said, “and they will then analyze the technology on how it could improve or damage relationships with customer teams.”

In addition to Nelson, scholars who co-authored the article in the European Journal of Marketing are:

  • Carlos Bauer, assistant professor, University of Alabama
  • John Galvan, assistant professor, Missouri State University
  • Tyler Hancock, assistant professor, University of Toledo
  • Gary Hunter, associate professor, University of Mississippi
  • Jen Riley, senior lecturer, Vanderbilt University
  • Emily Tanner, assistant professor, West Virginia University