THE EVOLUTION OF SALES: ASSESSING THE INTEGRATION OF SOCIAL SELLING INTO PROFESSIONAL SALES AND THE SALES CYCLE
Chair or Co-Chair
Brian N. Rutherford
Committee Member or Co-Chair
Technological advancements, such as social media, have played a key part in the progression of professional sales careers, and have aided in the building of client relationships as well as achieving overall sales success. As one of the strategies often used within the professional sales role, social selling, the leveraging of technology platforms like social media within the sales process, has served as a catalyst for the evolution of the sales process and has increasingly integrated into the role over the last decade. However, although social media usage has increased within the sales process, there are competing thoughts about the proper execution of the tactic, its legitimacy as a strategic approach, hesitancies in adoption as a whole, and resistance to training and resources spent on social selling within sales teams.
The purpose of this two-essay dissertation is to explore social selling's place within the sales process and salesperson practices to address the technological changes in society. This manuscript seeks to understand how the frequency of various social selling attributes throughout the sales process impacts salesperson value-creating outcomes including adaptive selling, customer orientation, and salesperson ambidexterity. Exploring the phenomenon of social selling as a tool leveraged for content creation to forge relationships, communicate product or service offerings, and nurture the buyer-seller relationship, this research conducts two studies examining salesperson social selling use. Essay one utilizes salesperson semi-structured interviews regarding social selling's integration into the sales process and discovers 16 tools and the supporting features salespeople are using throughout the sales process. Leveraging innovation diffusion theory, essay two hypothesizes that social selling's presence within each step of the traditional sales process positively impacts a salesperson’s adaptive selling behaviors, customer orientation practices, and their salesperson ambidexterity throughout the sales process. Of the 14 hypothesized relationships, only two were found significant based on the B2B salesperson sample collected (n=157). However, additional insights were garnered for salesperson usage and frequency of social selling. While all of the hypothesized relationships were not supported, this research advances sales theory in the search for answers to social selling’s impact on the role, the person, and the field.
Available for download on Wednesday, December 09, 2026
Business Administration, Management, and Operations Commons, Marketing Commons, Sales and Merchandising Commons