Matching Sales Management Behavior with Organizational Strategy

By Withey, John J.; Panitz, Eric | Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, July 2001 | Go to article overview

Matching Sales Management Behavior with Organizational Strategy


Withey, John J., Panitz, Eric, Academy of Marketing Studies Journal


BACKGROUND

Selling and the management of the selling activity are vital ingredients to most organizations. Significant budgets are regularly deployed in the recruitment, selection, training, and retention of effective sales people. Sales activities that are in tune with the organization's overall strategic thrust should be more effective. Yet the link between specific strategic approaches and street-level actions of sales managers and sales people is at best vague and unclear. At worst, and perhaps this is most often the case, there is no visible connection between strategy and selling/sales management whatsoever.

Strategic choice is a function of business environment. Most environmental models include economic, technological, political, legal, social/cultural, and competitive activities as primary components of the setting in which strategic decisions are made (Czinkota & Kotabe, 2001). Strategic change is expected to follow environmental change (Miles, Covin & Heeley, 2000). And, selling and sales management activities are expected to change along with strategic change.

Perhaps the most visible, and consequently the one most demanding of a response, is environmental change emanating from competitors. Competitive behavior no doubt often results from or is derived from other environmental components, but competitive change does represent the most obvious environmental influence on strategic adjustment. Those responsible for strategic choice must deal with changing competitive behaviors, even if the reactive choice is to do nothing. More adroit strategists might also anticipate and speculate about possible changing competitive behaviors.

One very popular strategic move on the part of competitors is to develop a new product or service, one that has not been part of the industry's traditional product or service mix. The new product/service (or range of new product/services) is then either directed at the industry's same group of customers and/or at completely new markets. Typologies of strategies for growth label these behaviors as product-development or diversification (Ansoff, 1957). For smaller companies who practice a strategy of product-development, the recommendation is usually made that incremental product changes should be sought in liew of breakthrough types of products or services (Allen, 2000).

Miles and Snow (1978) offer a very descriptive and especially applicative model of potential reactions to competitive behaviors that involve product/service-development strategies. Miles and Snow outlined a continuum of strategic behaviors that they label the 'adaptive cycle,' a process of adaptation available to managers in their efforts to react to changing environments. Their process included four specific strategic choices. One choice is to hold on to the present product/service mix and commit resources to strengthen that position. This strategy calls for doing a better, more effective job of what is currently being done. The goal is to hold or increase market share. Ansoff called this a strategy of market penetration (Ansoff, 1957). More contemporary marketing theorists might define this as an organization sticking to its core competency (McShane & Von Glinow, 2000).

Miles and Snow labeled this first strategic choice the strategy of the 'defender.' In their words:

"defenders have narrow product/market domains. They do not tend to search outside their domains for new opportunities. Rarely do they make adjustments in their technology, structure, or methods of operations. Instead, they devote primary attention to improving the efficiency of their existing operations." (p.29)

Perhaps the extreme opposite of the defender-strategy is the organization that moves aggressively to the newest product/market. This is the cutting-edge organization that attempts to be a leader both by creating product/market change and/or by quickly embracing the newly emerging product/market. …

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