Coordinating the activities of all departments so that maximum progress is made towards overall company objectives is top management’s responsibility. Department heads, in addition to implementing top management’s directives, harmonize their activities so that the tasks of all departments are accomplished effectively. Each understands the functions of other departments, and each is responsible for coordinating his or her department’s activities to contribute to company success.
Although the primary responsibility of top sales executives is to manage the sales department, they know the operations of other departments. Sales executives understand how other departments influence and are influenced by the sales department. These are dynamic relationships, so a change in one department often has repercussions in others.
1. Formal Coordinating Methods
Formal coordination among departments is achieved by one or more of three methods. The first is to build coordination into the organization through grouping allied activities under a high-ranking executive. In most companies, chief marketing executives have reporting directly to them the heads of departments performing marketing activities, such as sales, advertising, marketing research, and service. Under this arrangement, marketing executives coordinate the operations of departments under them.
The second method is to achieve coordination through the general administrative officers—the president, executive vice-president, or general manager. Here the coordinating executive coordinates the operations of all company departments, not just those performing closely related tasks. This explains why the second method is most widely used in companies having only a small number of departments.
The third method is to use policy, planning, and coordinating committees made up of representatives of concerned departments. On the surface, this appears to be the weakest method, as no one executive has responsibility for coordination. But this arrangement often works out quite satisfactorily in practice.
2. Informal Coordination
Informal coordination is generally more important than formal coordination. Department heads may solve an interdepartmental problem informally while it is still being thrashed out through formal mechanisms. Informal coordination procedures are preferred in most companies, and solutions so developed may or may not be formally adopted later by a coordinating body. One thing is certain—unexpected problems with important interdepartmental implications should be handled with minimum delay, for to prolong their solution is to risk costly friction. Sometimes informal solutions are accepted as tentative and are subject to modification after review by the formal coordinating mechanism. To arrive informally at workable solutions to problems affecting the sales department, the top sales executive maintains satisfactory relations with heads of other departments; all think of themselves as members of the same team, cooperating in the effort to reach company objectives.
Sales executives report that informal coordinating procedures are more important than formal methods, particularly where frequent communication is required. A study of four companies revealed that a large amount of communication took place informally among executives responsible for marketing-related activities. Informal coordination was partly through voluntary exchange of informational copies of correspondence, but largely through informal, nonperiodic exchanges of information occurring when executives met, by chance or arrangement, in their offices, or over coffee or meals.1
The same study revealed that one individual, or occasionally more than one, served as a communication center for exchanges of information on each important decision area. These executives were either receivers or senders in almost every exchange of information that took place with respect to their interest area. All executives, acting as “centers,” assumed the responsibility for providing a continuous flow of information regarding their areas to everyone in the company who they felt might need or could use the information. The top sales and advertising executives served jointly as communication centers for all activities that create demand, including personal selling, advertising, merchandising, sales promotion, and packaging.
The informal communication network is important in coordinating marketing activities, but its existence poses several problems:
- Marketing personnel must be made aware of the need for coordination. The traditional lack of close coordination among marketing-related activities makes this a difficult challenge.
- Marketing personnel must be given the opportunity to understand the role and responsibilities of other marketing jobs and to know the people holding these jobs. This is especially important when personnel responsible for marketing decision areas report to different superiors.
- Marketing management must establish a climate that encourages a continuous and free exchange of ideas and information.
Sales department operations influence and are influenced by the operations of departments performing related marketing activities and of others, such as production, personnel, finance, and data processing, where influences are indirect. The following discussion focuses upon instances where cooperation and coordination are essential and communications desirable for the top sales executive. It covers the main points of interdepartmental contact, but the dynamics and organizational peculiarities of an individual firm may require cooperation and coordination in other situations.
Source: Richard R. Still, Edward W. Cundliff, Normal A. P Govoni, Sandeep Puri (2017), Sales and Distribution Management: Decisions, Strategies, and Cases, Pearson; Sixth edition.