West: Leading the Effective Sales Force
How can you determine the effectiveness of your sales force? When should you rely on a third party to market and distribute your product? What are the best ways to reward your sales team?
These are the core questions academic directors Erin Anderson of INSEAD and Len Lodish of Wharton will focus on during the first open enrollment program to emerge from the Wharton INSEAD alliance, Leading the Effective Sales Force, to be held this March at Whartons San Francisco site.
"When used in the right way, a sales force is incredibly powerful," said Anderson, who taught in another version of this program at Wharton before going to INSEAD 8 years ago. "A good sales force has a tremendous impact on a companys profitability and on developing its capabilities for going forward with new products and services."
Anderson, the author of Marketing Channels (currently in its sixth edition from Prentice Hall), sees a trend of more companies outsourcing their sales and distribution channels as part of the larger move of companies focusing on their core competencies and outsourcing everything else. "Sales and distribution are closely aligned, and Ive done extensive research on when its best to go with a third party for these capabilities and how to work with third parties," she said.
Professor Lodish brings a systematic approach to allocating sales force resources and deployment issues, as well as a proprietary software program to help guide sales force decisions. "In my years of working with Len, Ive never seen anyone so quick with discerning the right level of spending and how to allocate it," Anderson said. "The right level of spending isnt always less. If an executive is operating in the zone of increasing returns to expenditures, the right thing to do is spend more. Thats hard to explain. But Len shows people where they are, and where they could be, in clear and precise terms. He has a very methodical approach to this area that he can make accessible to anyone." Participants will receive Lodishs software as well as individual instruction on adapting it to their specific industries.
The redesigned course also reflects the importance of the interface between marketing strategy, sales strategy, and company-wide strategy. The program will include sessions on team building and how the sales force fits within a companys overall strategic plan. In addition, industry experts will discuss sales force compensation issues.
Anderson said her experiences at INSEAD have given her valuable insights into the impact of cultural differences. When she first came to INSEAD, she was giving a lecture on controlling expense accounts. "The class was flabbergasted; they couldnt understand why they should scrutinize every restaurant receipt," she said. "Then they explained the tax structure in Europe to me. Because employees are so heavily taxed, companies reward their salespeople by allowing them to use their expense accounts for personal things. A raise or a bonus would be subject to heavy taxes. So instead of just assuming, Oh those French people just love to dine out, it was really about something tangible taxes," Anderson said. "Ive learned that its too easy to chalk everything up to culture. It pays to look harder at the business situation."
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