I love what GlaxoSmithKline is up to. The other day, GSK’s vice president of external advocacy (ya gotta love the job title) announced that the entire 8,000-strong sales force had been media- and message-trained and would be asked to interact with various constituents to help overcome the pharma industry’s horrific image.
This is so smart that it absolutely baffles me why more organizations don’t take similar steps. I cannot tell you how many companies we’ve come into contact with that keep their sales and marketing groups in separate silos. One erstwhile client in particular stands out in my mind. One of the world’s biggest and best-known brands, this company’s sales and marketing teams functioned like warring armies. Sales was openly disdainful of marketing, seeing it as an unnecessary drain on the bottom-line and only good for developing product spec sheets. Simultaneously, marketing perceived sales as an out-of-control group of high flyers who would say or do anything to land the next big sale. Bringing the two groups together in an off-site meeting enabled us to begin the process of tearing down the walls and overcoming preconceived stereotypes.
It takes an enlightened management team to bring sales and marketing together. Here’s hoping that Glaxo’s program is successful and serves as a bellwether for other, less progressive organizations.
Hat tip to Dandy Stevenson for this idea.
You raise a valid point, Moon. But industry leadership isn’t for the feint of heart. What I admire about Glaxo’s effort is their willingness to make mistakes and take some hits in order to generate a more positive industry image and reputation. It’s easy to sit back and keep doing what’s always been done. To Glaxo’s credit, they’re taking the road less travelled.
What do you think about the comment (that was expressed by a marketing executive of a top drug company):
“But I’m not sure I want 8,000 people on the ground given that level of responsibility to basically speak for a company and an industry. With that many, the odds say there’s going to be a percentage of them – however small – that will make a mistake, or stray from the script, or whatever.”
Although I also praise GSK’s ambitious marketing effort to be organic yet influential, I wonder how loyal employees will be… what if they have a bad day at work? or bad month? Their words will hit harder and mean more since they come fron the direct source. Nevertheless I too admire their break from traditional marketing!