Enhancing Sales Performance Through Complementary Tech Tools and Empowerment of Personnel

A new study co-authored by Dr. Omar Itani argues for the use of social media, CRM and social CRM in sales and the self-determination of salespeople for optimal co-creation.

By Dana K. Haffar

The research findings are particularly helpful to sales organizations in their use of social CRM and in managing their sales force for effective co-creation and a competitive edge in the market.

In a technology-driven era, businesses are relying increasingly on social media and customer relationship management tools (CRM) to engage the customer in the production or customization of a product to add value and enhance sales performance.

In addition to social media and CRM, their integration as social CRM is proving exceptionally effective in value co-creation. While it has been established in previous studies that social CRM drives up sales performance, little is known about how a salesperson’s knowledge can lead to co-creation opportunities.

A recent study co-authored by Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Adnan Kassar School of Business Omar Itani and published by Elsevier expounds on the complementary effect of social media and CRM technology on knowledge generation and value co-creation process between businesses.  

While supporting the importance of digital initiatives in today’s market shown by related research on the subject, Complementary effects of CRM and social media on customer co-creation and sales performance in B2B firms: The role of salesperson self-determination needs goes one step further to demonstrate how enabling salespeople through job autonomy, ease in sales quota and inclusion of the customer in the self can boost performance.

“Social media, CRM technology and social CRM help businesses in their value co-creation efforts through the mediating role of knowledge enriched by these tools,” said Dr. Itani, “which is contingent on job autonomy and performance efficacy.”

This is particularly timely as “social CRM is supporting the era of social selling, which could be the future of sales for many businesses,” he said.

Grounded in task-technology fit (TTF) theory, self-determination theory (SDT), and service-dominant (S-D) logic, the study proposes a new framework, in which social media and CRM technology help enrich salesperson knowledge. With the overarching goal of ultimately increasing performance, it analyzes the factors that can enhance that knowledge and the value co-creation relationship between the salesperson and the customer.

The paper first sets out to show how each of social media, CRM and social media CRM advance an organization’s knowledge and value co-creation process as they facilitate the acquisition of knowledge, a significant prerequisite to co-creation sought after by salespeople.

Expanding on previous studies, the paper also argues that the effects of these tech tools are pronounced in the B2B sales context, where salespeople need to continually gather information to ensure effective sales and co-creation with customers.

“Businesses need to extend their use of social media to incorporate the rich social data it possesses into their customer relationship management strategies,” said Dr. Itani. “They also need to benefit from the emerging social CRM tools that can harness the power of social networks and CRM technology to enhance knowledge and increase the opportunities of collaborative production of value.”

As the salesperson takes on the role of knowledge broker and value co-creator, having the agency to gather and disseminate information can go a long way to ensuring better sales outcomes.

To be motivated, salespeople need to enjoy autonomy, competence and a sense of relatedness, which are intrinsic to self-determination. If they are allowed the freedom to choose their approaches and manage their workload, a certain ease in their sales quota, and rapport with the customer – termed as the “inclusion of the customer in the self” – they are more likely to perform better.

To test their hypotheses, the researchers collected responses from a sample of B2B sales representatives employed in the US, from various industries, such as basic materials, manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, financial, and information technology.

The results indicated a significant contingent effect of salesperson job autonomy and sales quota ease on the relationship between knowledge and value co-creation.

They showed that salespeople receiving adequate levels of job autonomy and reaching assigned sales quotas are intensively applying their know-how to co-create value with customers.

Furthermore, whereas low sales quotas ease can negatively affect salespeople who will perceive themselves as incompetent, the co-creation value of ‘high-knowledge salespeople’ is not affected by high or low quota sales. For that, businesses are encouraged to facilitate the adoption process of social CRM to enrich the knowledge base of their boundary, spanning employees responsible for the value co-creation processes with customers.   

In practice, the findings are particularly helpful to sales organizations in their use of social CRM and in managing their sales force for effective co-creation and a competitive edge in the market.

“Whether through hiring, training, and development, businesses are encouraged to advance the right programs and processes that assure increased autonomy for employees as well as high efficacy in achieving set objectives,” concluded Dr. Itani.

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