Brand & Sales Collaboration: Enemies or Brothers in Arms?

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To start our series on the fruitful benefits of collaboration in the Pharma industry, we chose to discuss a well-familiar, in-house, long-existing, dichotomous relationship between brands and sales, and how a reconciliation between them, based on a shared platform of data analytics and communication, can truly save the day when it comes to success in the Pharma market.

Although common within organizations across many industries, this adversity can only be described as utterly ironic.

Here’s why:

One of the many answers to the question of what makes a successful Pharma company or a successful drug launch, for that matter, is one seamless partnership going from brand at the executive level across the organization to sales at the rep level. Cut this streamline and you lose one of the key elements for success in the Pharma market: cross-organizational collaboration between the two major departments – brand and sales.

Two Motivations – Different Objectives

In order to better understand what keeps these departments from collaborating effectively, let’s take a look at some of these parties’ key motivations.

The driving force in marketing is usually based on the concept of creating and growing brand awareness. Marketing’s strategy is in the macro level and is derived from an analysis of current market trends, which requires both market research and focus on in-house performance to identify areas of risk or opportunities in order to refine and adjust the strategy.

Marketing’s work is often focused on segmenting the market and determining where the best ROI would be, where efforts would yield the best responsiveness to the brand, what messages are required to motivate these target audiences, etc.

The problem starts when these marketing efforts clash with the sales force objectives, mainly focused on creating tactics to establish which targeted audiences offer the greatest value potential at the micro-level in order to develop the call plans. The macro-level data provided by marketing is simply not sufficient at the rep-physician level, ultimately forcing the sales force to turn and develop its own separate market analytics.

However, often times, the analytics used by the sales force offers little, valuable insight into target audiences’ motivation, needs and preferences, thus having almost no strategic importance to the brand.

Ultimately, a gap is created between the two analytics views and the sales force is hardly able to execute the brand strategy with any real precision in the field.

These two motivations, though both targeted to serve the same organizational promotional campaign, in reality, create conflicting goals when each party is keen on addressing its own set of priorities and prerogatives, thus harming the organizational effort altogether.

The extent of the damage to the organization is clear, which is why reconciling these two segments of the organization is a top priority.

Establishing Common Grounds

The first step in reconciling the two parties is eliminating the perception of two different motivations and objectives. In order to implement a cross-organizational strategy, all parties must participate, not only in executing it, but first and foremost, in conceptualizing it.

Yes, different departments have different goals, and it is vital for every department to be successful in its own domain and do what they do best: marketing must grow brand awareness through different channels among target audiences just as sales must focus on quotas, for that matter.

Here’s the Deal

Both departments are, essentially, so closely related that they’re almost one and the same, in terms of organizational strategy execution.

Brands should be looking at everything; it’s true they look for market trends and focus on long-term brand awareness. However, a good marketing department also has the ability to observe short-term sales performance and drill down on areas of interest.

In other words, a marketing strategy is only as good as its performance on the field; the sales force on the ground should be able to report in real-time, thus offering the marketing team the ability to fine-tune the strategy according to the data provided by the reps from the field.

A collaboration between the two parties, based on a shared engagement of both brands and sales in all stages of strategy implementation, is not only needed, it’s pretty much “written on the wall.”

Reconciliation – A Collateral Cross-Organizational Effort

So, how do you do it? Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Create a Cross-Organizational Team

    Create a cross-organizational team with representatives from across the organization’s different departments to implement brand strategy.

  2. Have an Appropriate Platform to Support This Team

    You need a shared platform of data analytics to allow everyone to have the same awareness and visibility of performance. In order to guarantee a shared bank of information, all parties must have access to the multiple metrics and KPI’s; they should all see the same numbers and the same measurements. This not only prevents confusion and contradictions, it creates a common terminology for both brands and sales, which constitutes as ground for better communication between the two and across the organization as a whole.

  3. Get the Sales Force in the Loop

    Involve the sales force right from the early stages of the strategy conception. This will allow sales to build their call plans accordingly and train their teams to be aligned with brand strategy.

The Advantages of Brand & Sales Collaboration

These three components are essential to establish an effective collaboration between brand and sales. The combination of a cross-organizational team, working on a shared data analytics platform and ensuring the active involvement of the sales force in the process:

  1. Builds a consensus around performance and strategy progress on the field.
  2. Creates an end-to-end dynamic of top-down and ground-up insights, allowing for modifications in strategy in real-time.
  3. Creates one version of the truth by allowing cross-organizational visibility and access.

The importance of a healthy, constant communication between brands and sales cannot be emphasized enough. Creating a single, streamlined path of information and performance assessment is a priceless asset for the organization, making it possible to review the brand strategy all the way from conception, through implementation to execution.

Furthermore, being able to make changes in your strategy not only based on market research data, but also on reports from the field on a physician-rep level, takes you one step ahead of the game and contributes to future launches.

So, enemies or brothers in arms? It’s up to you to reconcile these two and create a single, collaborative communication between them.

Want to learn more on how to create a single version of the truth in your brand? Click here.

References:
Anbil, P., Markmann, J., Kluwer, W., & Zhang, W. (2009, December 24). How to Ensure Successful Design and Implementation of Physician Segmentation. Pharmaceutical Commerce. Retrieved from http://www.pharmaceuticalcommerce.com/index.php?pg=brand_communications&articleid=1866&keyword=Wolters-Kluwer-Anbil-segmentation-physicians-deciles