The Human Side of Digital Transformation in Sales


Special issue of Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management; Deadline 1 Aug 2020


Author: Nick Lee

Call for Papers: Special Issue in 2020

The human side of digital transformation IN SALES

Guest Co-Editors:

Dr. Sascha Alavi, University of Bochum (GER)
Dr. Johannes Habel, Warwick Business School (UK)

Digital transformation in sales is pervasive and ubiquitous. Firms of all industries and sizes make substantial investments to advance their digital sales infrastructure (Lamberton and Stephen 2016; Freimark et al. 2018); worldwide spending on digital transformation is expected to reach $1.2 trillion in 2019 (IDC 2019). The surge of new digital technologies has already fundamentally disrupted traditional sales processes and profoundly changed the way salespeople operate (Mathieu, Ahearne, and Taylor 2007; Singh et al. 2019). New digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, internet of things, smart sensors, platforms, social media apps, or cloud services provide a substantial opportunity for sales organizations to realize essential increases in productivity. However, at the same time, these technologies possess an invasive nature: The amount, velocity, detail, and completeness of data renders salespeople largely transparent, providing unprecedented monitoring and influence opportunities. As a result, for many companies the digital transformation is a troublesome change management process with many pitfalls, especially when it comes to sales employees’ buy-in.

In light of this tremendous practical relevance, numerous academic articles have carved out the benefits of new technology to increase sales performance. That is, extant research showed that salespeople’s usage of technologies can increase their revenues, profitability, cross-selling success, upselling success, and improve customer relationships (cf. Wieseke et al. 2011; Singh et al. 2019). However, current sales research is lacking an understanding how digital transformation affects and is affected by individual salespeople and sales managers. Seeing the aforementioned levels of invasiveness, transparency, and power to monitor and influence, the question arises how sales managers and salespeople are personally affected and how they cope with new technologies.

The goal of the special issue in JPSSM is to explore these questions and give a forum both for outstanding cutting-edge empirical and theoretical research on the “the human side of digital transformation in sales.” Topics that may be addressed include (but are not limited to):

  • The impact of sales managers and salespeople on digital transformation
    • Effects of sales managers’ and salespeople’s attitudes, skills, and/or behaviors on digital transformation
    • Effective leadership in times of digital transformation
    • Effective change management strategies to reduce salespeople’s fear of job loss and overcome resistance to digital transformation
  • The impact of digital transformation on sales managers and salespeople
    • Changes to selling in light of e-commerce, analytics, automation, and/or artificial intelligence
    • Suitability of different types of technology to replace and/or enable sales managers and salespeople
    • Effects of digital transformation on sales managers’ and salespeople’s cognitions, knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, mindsets, intra- and extra-organizational behaviors, and performance
    • Effects of sales managers’ monitoring through new digital technologies

To this end, the editors encourage the submission of a number of different types of papers:

  1. Papers that present original contributions. These papers may use theoretical analysis or empirical data. Papers may present new-to-the-world knowledge or new-to-sales knowledge.
  2. Shorter research notes that present novel empirical insights into one specific phenomenon, aiming to stimulate further research. Submissions in this area need to put particular emphasis on a favorable length-to-contribution ratio.
  3. Review papers which summarize the literature on the human side of digital transformation. Papers such as this may be meta analyses, systematic reviews, or narrative reviews.

Authors are encouraged to contact one of the special issue co-editors if they are unsure of the applicability of their topic to the issue.


The due date for submission of manuscripts is August 1, 2020. Submitted manuscripts must follow JPSSM Guidelines for Authors (see

Only original papers not currently under review or published elsewhere may be submitted.


Freimark, A. J, Habel, J., Hülsbömer, S., Schmitz, B., & Teichmann, M. (2018). Hidden Champions – Champions of the Digital Transformation? IDG Research Services.

IDC (2019). Businesses Will Spend Nearly $1.2 Trillion on Digital Transformation This Year as They Seek an Edge in the Digital Economy, According to a New IDC Spending Guide. Available at

Lamberton, C., & Stephen, A. T. (2016). A thematic exploration of digital, social media, and mobile marketing: Research evolution from 2000 to 2015 and an agenda for future inquiry. Journal of Marketing, 80(6), 146-172.

Mathieu, J., Ahearne, M., & Taylor, S. R. (2007). A longitudinal cross-level model of leader and salesperson influences on sales force technology use and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(2), 528-537.

Singh, J., Flaherty, K., Sohi, R. S., Deeter-Schmelz, D., Habel, J., Le Meunier-FitzHugh, K., Malshe, A., Mullins, R., & Onyemah, V. (2019). Sales profession and professionals in the age of digitization and artificial intelligence technologies: concepts, priorities, and questions. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 39(1), 2-22.

Wieseke, J., Kraus, F.; Alavi, S., Kessler-Thönes, T. (2011). Motivation Spillover: How Leaders Motivation Transfers to Customer Service Representatives. Journal of Service Research, 62(2), 214-234.