Why salespeople avoid new technologies

To compete with online retailing and meet the increased expectations of demanding cross-channel customers, just offering products is not enough for retailers to survive. Therefore, a growing number of retailers, such as Lowe’s, Douglas, J.C. Penney, or Sephora, concentrate on their core strength – the personal sales dialogue. One way to do this is to digitally enhance face-to-face interactions between salespeople and customers. New technologies, such as Tablets (so called “Mobile Sales Assistants”, in short, MSAs) are one way to strengthen these interactions

‘the emergent computer-mediated relationships seem to produce beneficial effects, while combining employees’ existing capabilities with new competencies, thus resulting in an improvement of the entire retail process’.Pantano and Migliarese (2014, p. 958)

Potential benefits of Mobile Sales Assistants relate to cost-efficiency, service quality and consumer experience. Therefore, it is not surprisingly that many retails invested large amounts in the implementation of MSAs. However, one particular challenge remains: Many salespeople do not make use of MSAs. In other words, they are resistant when it comes to MSAs. Why is this the case?


To answer this managerially relevant question, we conducted a series of studies and interviewed more than 40 salespeople and nine experts to explore and identify factors of MSA resistance. In a follow-up study, we collaborated with two retailers that had just implemented MSAs and assessed the identified factors quantitatively. A download link is presented below.


We identified numerous barriers which conceptually can be grouped to higher-order factors, as we discuss in the paper. However, the following table provides an overview of these barriers and their definitions. Important to note, not all of them are equally strong correlated with resistance. Few meaningful results are discussed below (see footnote), and more details are presented in the paper.

This quote of a respondent is quite relevant to the context of technology in sales management:

I guess, nobody wants it. Because then they start reducing and rationalizing. And suddenly, one or two employees are sufficient for such a store.





Disruption of Routines The unwanted abandonment of the current situation and processes
Technostress Negative physical or psychological consequences of the MSA introduction or use
Process Rigidity*** The inflexibility of the sales process due to a predefined workflow in the MSA
Enforcement Perception of being obliged by supervisors to use the MSA against one’s own will
Fear of Public Failure (low) The level of anxiety of an unintended nonperformance of the expected result in a sales conversation
Personal Incongruence** The degree to which a salesperson wants to avoid being identified with the MSA
Corporate Incongruence** The degree to which a salesperson perceives contradictoriness between the MSA attributes and retail brand attributes
Impoliteness A salesperson’s apprehension of being perceived by customers as disrespectful
Incompetence A salesperson’s apprehension of being perceived by customers as professionally incompetent
Degradation*** The degree to which a salesperson perceives his professional status to be lowered
Dequalification*** The perceived risk of losing one’s ability to perform a professional sales conversation
Substitution Risk The perceived risk of being replaced through any form of sales technology
Information Overload The customer’s efficiency in using information is hampered by the amount of relevant information available
Encroachment of the Comfort Zone Unusual or unpleasant physical proximity due to the collaborative use of the MSA
Information Distrust A salesperson’s doubts as to the correctness of the data provided by the MSA
Interaction Quality The extent to which both salesperson and customer perceive a sales conversation as positive
Cognitive Load The degree of necessary mental effort associated with the use of the MSA
Time Expenditure The extent of time required to learn and to adjust to the MSA including slower sales talks in the initial phase of usage
Extended Range of Responsibilities The addition of novel responsibilities for the salesperson resulting from the MSA implementation
Technological Hurdles (low) The degree to which technological malfunctions of the MSA affect its proper use
Handling Issues The degree to which operational obstacles and barriers related to the MSA affect its proper use

*** strong influence / low: weak influence, based on correlational analyses


Spreer, P., & Rauschnabel, P. A. (2016). Selling with technology: understanding the resistance to mobile sales assistant use in retailing. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management36(3), 240-263. Publisher






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