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Chapter 29: The Impact of the Internet on B2B Sales Force Size and Structure
29 The impact of the Internet on B2B sales force size and structure Murali K. Mantrala and Sönke Albers Since its commercialization in the mid-1990s, the Internet has become one of the most revolutionary forces in history to hit business in general and B2B (including ‘industrial’ and ‘services’) markets in particular – an economic sector expected to grow to $15 trillion in 2010 (Sheth and Sharma 2008).1 The Internet represents the single most important technology of this generation for firms to cut costs, improve service, expand markets and deal more effectively with customers (Litan and Rivlin 2001). In their pioneering study, Varian et al. (2002) reported that the earliest and most pervasive Internet-based technologies that businesses adopted were customer-facing solutions (e.g. e-marketing, customer service and support, e-commerce solutions). In addition, Giga Information Group (now part of Gartner Group) estimated that the cost savings from business use of e-commerce would reach $1.25 trillion by 2002 (Masterson 1999). A significant proportion of these projected savings stem from the reduction in SG&A (sales, general and administrative) costs. Organizations in the United States expected that their Internet business solutions would help them save more than $150 billion in such costs by 2005. The most frequently mentioned savings were from reduction in customer support costs, followed by reduced costs of human resources, sales and marketing (Varian et al. 2002). Since Varian et al.’s (2002) study, the invention and diffusion of new Internet-based technologies, applications and services useful for business and e-commerce have proceeded...
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