Breaking down marketing and sales silos

Pharmaceutical Representative

One of the hardest silos to break down in any cross-functional sales effort is the pernicious and often impenetrable wall that has grown up between the sales and marketing functions.

One of the hardest silos to break down in any cross-functional sales effort is the pernicious and often impenetrable wall that has grown up between the sales and marketing functions. The lack of integration between marketing and sales is a perpetual source of difficulty, particularly in the enterprise of sale. Sales behaves as if Marketing is an impediment between the sales force and its customers. Marketing treats Sales as a low-level execution arm. The new marketing myopia, all too common among marketers who should know better, is that "Marketing creates value, Sales communicates value." That was a difficult enough idea to support 10 years ago. It's an impossible way to look at the world today. One useful role of the sales process is to dismantle unhelpful stereotypes like these and to create better ways for Marketing and Sales to work together in mutual creation of customer value.

An example of an organization that has used a process approach to attack the unhelpful boundaries between Marketing and Sales is Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, part of the Johnson & Johnson organization. Jack Lemelle, director of business reengineering at Ortho-McNeil, describes the problem in terms many readers will recognize all too well.

"One symptom that tells you something's wrong between Marketing and Sales is what happens to product launches. In our president's words, our last five product launches have been 'dismal at best.' Marketing knew where the blame lay - clearly it was sales. 'Those damn sales people aren't following the plan,' they complained. Sales had another explanation: 'Those marketing imbeciles in Raritan don't have a clue about the real world,' they said. 'This stuff doesn't work…'"

It was a sadly typical story. The old functional divisions between Sales and Marketing had done for Ortho-McNeil what it had done for so many similar companies. An almost adversarial relationship had been created. There was little synergy between the efforts of each group. Finger pointing was inevitable. And the end result was reduced ability to create customer value. In other words, Ortho-McNeil had a typical Marketing and Sales structure. At the root of the problem was the lack of a shared business planning process. This wasn't just an issue between Sales and Marketing. There were, within the old functional organization, 15 separate business-planning processes. "The nicest word for it," said Jack Lemelle, "was 'smorgasbord.' Basically, it became one big hand off."

The process redesign team created a single market planning process as the backbone for their efforts. Sales and Marketing both gave input to the new planning process. More importantly, they jointly owned the result. Their two functions were combined into a single sales and marketing group. Their separate cost systems were merged into a single cost structure. The new organization was vertically aligned into customer-based groups, such as Women's Health Care. One acid test of this new process-based integration of sales and marketing is the effectiveness of product launches since the redesigned structure was put into place.

Jack Lemelle said, "We've launched three important new products since the change. Ultram has been the most successful launch of an analgesic in history, selling $119 million within nine months. Topomax was launched six weeks early. It was approved in December and was on the shelf in January - which is an industry first. Finally, there's Levaquin. To give you an idea of how that's gone, I'd compare it with our earlier launches of Quinolone. Quinolone gained a one point share in three months. In contrast, Levaquin has made an 8.1 share in the same three-month period. With each share point being worth about $8 million, that's not bad."

Evidence like this suggests that breaking down the Sales and Marketing boundary can indeed speed time to market and improve sales results. More importantly, in Ortho-McNeil, it has allowed Sales and Marketing to work together to create customer value. In an increasing number of organizations, similar approaches have led to the redesign of enterprise selling boundaries between sales and other functions, such as customer service, generally with positive results. PR