9Customer Relationships and Digital Technologies: What Place and Role for Sales Representatives?

New digital technologies are changing sales representatives’ daily lives and profoundly transforming customer relationships. Many scientific articles have been devoted to these topics for several decades and concern, in particular, customer relationship management (CRM) software and their acceptance by sales forces [AHE 10, MAR 12]. However, digital technologies are constantly evolving at a very rapid pace, with the advent of social media and artificial intelligence (AI) in particular. Through this chapter, we wish to successively take stock and offer a prospective vision on these two digital technologies (i.e. social media and AI), which should in the future continue to transform customer relationships and offer new opportunities to sales representatives.

The first section will be devoted to social media, which is making its way into the daily lives of sales people, particularly in B2B through social selling. This section will highlight that social media is not just an additional contact channel for several reasons: it profoundly disrupts the relationship between salespeople and their customers, it changes its nature (now more virtual and instantaneous), it redistributes roles (salespeople support customers in their purchasing journey rather than encourage them to buy) and it reinforces the need for certain relational qualities from salespeople (more availability, more responsiveness). ...

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