Aligning sales and operations management: an agenda for inquiry

Devarajan Rangarajana,*, Arun Sharmab, Bert Paesbrugghec and Robert Bouted

aMarketing Department, Ball State University, Muncie, IN, 47306, USA; bMarketing Department, University of Miami, PO Box 248147, Coral Gables, FL 33124-6554, USA; cI �ESEG School of Management, Parvis de la D�efense, P92044 Paris – La D�efense Cedex, France;

dVlerick Business School – Leuven Campus, Supply Chain, Leuven, Belgium

(Received 20 May 2017; accepted 6 March 2018)

There is a rapid growth in solution selling in practice and a commensurate increase in research in this area. The focus of this sales strategy is on providing solutions to customer problems that typically entail combining products and services from the provider firm as well as other firms. The fulfilment of these solutions requires operations management support. Despite the need for closer collaboration between sales and operations management, more research is needed on the interface of these two functions. To deepen our understanding of the interface of sales and operations management, we undertook qualitative research and conducted in-depth interviews of senior executives in global firms to determine the need for sales and operations management cooperation. We followed the qualitative research with a review of extant research on the interface of sales and operations management. Finally, we conducted a survey of academic researchers to identify areas and themes of future research in this area. We summarize the implications of our findings for future research.

Keywords: sales and operations management; integration; solution selling; cooperation

In today’s hypercompetitive marketplace, sales organiza-

tions are increasingly focusing on consultative selling and

solution selling. An ignored aspect of solution or consulta-

tive selling is the role of operations management in the

selling process. As an example, Tuli et al. (2007, 5) define

solutions as “a set of customer–supplier relational pro-

cesses comprising (1) customer requirements definition,

(2) customization and integration of goods and/or services

and (3) their deployment, and (4) post deployment cus-

tomer support, all of which are aimed at meeting custom-

ers’ business needs.” While the sales function is critical in

the first two stages, the service function is critical in the

fourth stage, and the operations management function is

critical for the second and third stages. It is clear that there

is need for a deep integration of sales and operations man-

agement in solution selling, and noninvolvement of opera-

tions management with sales could lead to failure to fulfil

customer needs. While there has been considerable

research on the interface of sales and service (e.g., Neu

and Brown 2005; Rapp et al. 2017), additional research is

needed on the interface of sales and operations manage-

ment. This is in the context of “portfolio of relationships”

suggested by Plouffe et al. (2016), in which salespeople

need to manage relationships with customers, internal

business functions, and external business partners. More

research is needed because firms that have tried to move

to solution selling have seen little gain from it (Johansson

et al. 2003; Stanley and Wojcik 2005; Sharma and Iyer

2011). One reason for the lack of gains may be the

absence of coordination between sales and operations

management. Operations management is typically focused

on lean operations and efficiency, and providing custom-

ized solutions for customers has not been a priority.

In general, there has been a call for enhanced coopera-

tion between different functional areas (Gulati 2013;

Kotler, Rackham, and Krishnaswamy 2006) to deliver

successful customer solutions (Kumar 2004), but more

academic research is needed. As Esper et al. (2010) sug-

gested, integration between demand and supply is

regarded as necessary, but seldom achieved.

In this article, we focus on the collaboration between

sales and operations management from a broad perspec-

tive. In this regard, we attempt to determine the

interaction between sales and operations management and

take a three-pronged research approach – managerial per-

spectives, examining extant research, and collecting data

from researchers on what areas would enhance their

understanding of the interaction. This multimethod per-

spective allows us to better understand and identify gaps,

which when addressed will enhance our understanding of

the sales and operations management area.

To achieve these objectives, we first conducted a qual-

itative research study by undertaking in-depth interviews

with senior executives in 10 firms. We wanted to deter-

mine the need for sales and operations management col-

laboration and to identify some key drivers of successful

*Corresponding author. Email: drangarajan@bsu.edu

� 2018 Pi Sigma Epsilon National Educational Foundation

Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 2018

Vol. 38, No. 2, 220–240, https://doi.org/10.1080/08853134.2018.1450148

cross-functional relationships. Following the qualitative

research, we conducted a review of extant research on the

interface between sales and operations management and

found limited research. Then we conducted a survey of

academic researchers in the area to identify areas and

themes of future research in this area, followed by a sec-

ond qualitative study of managers from an additional ten

firms.

In examining the research gaps, we found that mana-

gerial issues such as the creation of an interface depart-

ment, salespeople getting overall customer satisfaction

targets, and organizational culture issues such as job rota-

tions, special organizational programs to promote collabo-

ration, and joint training programs have not been

addressed in the current literature. We also found that aca-

demics suggest further research in the areas of technol-

ogy/sales-force automation, intraorganizational issues,

forecasting, sales evaluation and performance, and sales/

marketing strategy.

The layout of the article is as follows. We start by

examining the critical need for interfunctional coordina-

tion and sales and operations management coordination

and highlight the consequences if this is not achieved. We

then report on a qualitative research in which we inter-

viewed senior executives from 10 firms to understand the

practitioner’s view of the coordination of sales and opera-

tions management. We then report on the results of a liter-

ature review in the area of marketing and operations

management. This is followed by a section based on a sur-

vey of academics, who identify areas for future research

and suggest possible research questions, and a follow-up

qualitative study. We conclude with a summary of our

findings and implications for research and practice.

Need for cooperation between sales and operations

management

Before we discuss the need for cooperation between sales

and operations management, we need to describe the

research on interfunctional coordination. As organizations

grow, the main organizational goal, and hence the organi-

zational strategy, is implemented through different func-

tional areas such as marketing, sales, research and

development (R&D), supply chain (Miller and Arnold

1998), and vertical specialization starts to dominate the

mind-set of the people within the different departments

(Cilliers and Greyvenstein 2012). Organizational silos can

be observed between various functions and have been an

important part of research. For example, the relationship

between the marketing function and other areas has been

extensively studied in the context of group and organiza-

tional identity (e.g., Randel 2002; Gupta and Ogden 2009;

Grier and Deshpand�e 2001). Homburg and Jensen (2007) examined research articles

on the relationship between the marketing department and

other departments, such as sales, R&D, finance, manufactur-

ing, quality management, engineering, human resources, and

information technology (IT). The authors suggest that the

main reason for conflict between internal business relation-

ships is their differing departmental goals. Marketing is cate-

gorized by a long-term orientation and is more product

orientated while, for example, sales is considered more

short-term and customer oriented.

Nauta, De Dreu, and Van der Vaart (2002) found simi-

lar goal incompatibilities between the operations and the

planning departments, where operations usually focuses

on high quality and efficient production and the planning

department generally concentrates on on-time deliveries.

Similarly, research by Shapiro (1977) examined the

chronical conflict between the manufacturing-related

departments, or the back offices, and the front offices,

such as the sales department. Back-office departments

have a cost-reduction goal, striving to the highest levels

of efficiency within the production process, while the goal

of front-office departments is to increase revenues by

being customer centric.

This organizational silo problem is also embedded in

the organizational behavior literature (Greenberg and

Baron 1995). Prior research on organizational silos shows

that organizational silos lead to a dysfunctional organiza-

tion. Moreover, Diamond and Allcorn (2009) found that

silo mentality strongly influences work behavior and the

disconnection between the employee and the other depart-

ments. Brewer and Kramer (1986) found that, according

to social identity theory, employees favor their own

department and, to a certain extent, reject other depart-

ments. Thompson and Loewenstein (1992) found that

employees overestimate the contributions of their own

department and undervalue those of other departments.

The most common suggestion by researchers to solve

this coordination problem is to develop a better alignment

between different internal business functions (Dahler-

Larsen 1998). Other propositions by researchers to tackle

this issue are management by objectives (St. John 1991),

soft human resource management (Beer et al. 1985), and

the implementation of a process-oriented organizational

layout (e.g., Christopher 1998).

Sales and operations management collaboration informs

the operations of a firm in order to better adjust demand and

supply. The literature in the area has consistently

highlighted the critical role of sales and operations manage-

ment collaboration for the success of the organization

(Laanti, Garbrielsson, and Gabrielsson 2007; Storbacka

2011; Ivert et al. 2015). In addition, Swaim et al. (2016)

suggested that an enhanced alignment between the sales and

operations functions leads to an increase in control and agil-

ity of businesses and is an important asset in the emerging

era of enhanced competition. They also found that sales and

operations engagement is positively correlated to higher

operational, market, and profitability outcomes.

Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management 221

The success of sales and operations management inte-

gration depends on how well the sales and operations cul-

ture is embedded across all functions and levels within a

company (Lapide 2002). Despite the effort it takes to

fruitfully implement and manage sales and operations

management (Grimson and Pyke 2007), the advantages of

properly integrating sales and operations management can

be numerous. That may be the reason that Grimson and

Pyke (2007) suggested that the explicit goal of sales and

operation management alignment should be to maximize

profit.

The research quoted in previous paragraphs highlights

the critical need for enhancing the collaboration between

sales and operations management. A quick review of the

literature on this topic indicates that research is still

lacking in this domain (Malhotra and Sharma 2002)

and that more research is needed (Pagell 2004). Plouffe

et al. (2016) have also suggested further research in

this area within their conceptualization of “portfolio of

relationships.” In the following sections, we highlight the

findings of a qualitative study, an in-depth literature

review, and a survey of academics we undertook to further

explore this area.

Qualitative research study

To understand the importance of collaboration between

sales and operation management, we undertook a qualita-

tive study. The qualitative study was based on the case

study approach suggested by Eisenhardt (1989). Drawing

on grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Yin 2013),

Eisenhardt (1989) proposes a method of using case studies

to contribute to theory building by using techniques such

as triangulation by multiple investigators, cross-case anal-

yses, and existing literature.

We conducted extensive in-depth interviews with

senior executives from 10 firms that were predominantly

operating in the business-to-business domain (see Table 1

for sample details). Two of the 10 firms also had a busi-

ness-to-consumer division. To enhance our focus, we

requested that participants focus on the business-to-busi-

ness aspects in the interviews. We were interested in

understanding why the collaboration between sales and

operations management was important and how these

firms were currently managing the collaboration. This

was in keeping with Eisenhardt (1989), who suggests case

study research to be based on certain a priori specified

constructs. In keeping with the requirements of case study

research (Eisenhardt 1989), we chose a theoretical sam-

pling method to account for differences between product/

service dominant companies, regional/global companies,

and sales/operational executives. In addition, to ensure tri-

angulation by multiple investigators, we had the principal

sales investigator talk to operational executives and had a

principal supply chain investigator conduct the interviews

with the sales executives.

A sample of 11 participants were contacted based on

their relationship with the co-authors and all 11 agreed to

Table 1. Characteristics of sample.

Firm Function Responsibility Industry Annual revenue

(USD)

Stage 1 A Director of sales Europe Food and beverage 45.52 billion B Supply chain director Europe, Middle East, and Africa

(EMEA) Commodity metals 2.67 billion

C VP marketing and sales and VP operations

Global Industrial machinery 11.4 billion

D Supply-chain manager EMEA Industrial chemicals 57 billion E VP sales Global Electronic equipment 1.2 billion F Project manager – customer excellence Global Industrial materials 4.9 billion G Global supply-chain director Global Performance materials 9.65 billion H Chief financial officer Regional Waste management 16 billion I Business unit director Global Materials technology 15 billion J Service delivery head Regional Financial services 14 billion

Stage 2 K VP operations and VP sales Global Mining 4.5 billion L VP business development North America Industrial machinery

rental 250 million

M Manager, sales support Regional-Europe Transportation 100 million N Senior account director EMEA Financial services 850 million O SVP and business unit head Global Food technology 400 million P VP sales operations EMEA Medical devices 1.1 billion Q Global sales director Global Industrial construction 400 million R Operations manager Regional Automotive services 60 million S Sales director Europe Logistics services Not provided T CEO North America Financial services 7 million

222 D. Rangarajan et al.

participate in the research. All the participants were male

and had greater than 15 years of work experience. While

six of the 11 participants had a global role, five had either

a European role or more of a regional role. Five of the 11

participants had experience in different functions within

their organization. All participants worked in specific

business units within the multinational firms, but all the

participants were familiar with how other business units

within their companies worked on aligning sales and oper-

ations management.

We conducted semistructured, in-depth interviews

with the participants that lasted between 60 and

75 minutes. Except for two of the interviews that

were conducted over Skype, all the interviews were face

to face either at the participant’s office or at the offices of

the authors. Six of the 11 interviews were conducted by

one author and the remaining five by one of the other

authors. The participants were asked to elaborate on four

open-ended questions: (1) “How important is the collabo-

ration between sales and operations management?”; (2)

“How does their company align the sales and operations

management functions?”; (3) “Can you provide concrete

examples of specific actions taken to achieve alignment?”;

and (4) “What were the outcomes of the specific actions

taken to align sales and operations management?”

According to their responses, participants were probed for

additional information to provide more clarity on the

information that they provided. We were also asked not to

mention the names of the companies in our report.

Due to the sensitive nature of the information pro-

vided, all the participants insisted on nondisclosure agree-

ments and did not want the interviews to be recorded, so

field notes were taken (Bernard 2012). While we did not

formally manage and code the field notes to ensure the

trustworthiness of the findings from our interviews, we

used the criteria suggested by Lincoln and Guba (1985).

As mentioned earlier, both the interviewers (each of

whom had his own theoretical perspective based on his

field of specialization – sales and supply chain manage-

ment) met after each interview to compare notes and adapt

the questions wherever necessary for subsequent inter-

views. To ensure triangulation of our findings, we had one

of the co-authors not involved in the research process go

over our findings.

Qualitative interview results

The first issue that we addressed was the importance of

alignment between sales and operations management

functions in an organization. There was unanimous agree-

ment that an alignment between sales and operations man-

agement was critical. For example, Firm H had undergone

a major organizational restructuring. Being a waste man-

agement company, the firm’s processes and systems were

run by the operations department. However, during the

economic crisis, the company had started to shift its focus

to become a more commercially oriented, customer-cen-

tric organization. However, facing increased price pres-

sure from customers, increased competition, and

increased costs associated with service delivery (and fail-

ures), top management issued a directive to decrease costs

associated with inventory management, which could only

be undertaken if there was close collaboration between

sales and operations functions. The company succeeded

in aligning sales and operations management, which led

to higher sales and profitability.

Most companies we interviewed had found themselves

in a similar position as Firm H. They found that a lack of

collaboration between sales and operations management

negatively affected revenues and profitability. The firms

stated that a lack of a company-specific alignment process

between sales and operations management had a direct

impact not only on the financial performance of a firm,

but also on the long-term viability of the firm.

As mentioned earlier, we were interested in identifying

business practices that companies deployed to align sales

and operations management functions. It became clear after

the first three interviews that different firms had different

practices in place to align sales and operations management

and to keep track of the efficacies of these practices. We

identified five practices that were mentioned by more than

half of the participants to be critical elements in the success

of effective collaboration between sales and operationsman-

agement – other functional team involvement; collaborative

environment, internally and externally; goal alignment;

organizational culture; and top-management involvement.

While not all firms utilized all elements of best practices, we

identified certain common practices across all the firms.

These practices are listed in ascending order of how many

times they were mentioned by the participants.

Other functional team involvement

Our interviewees suggested that for sales and operation

management alignment, the process needs to include

other functional teams as well, such as finance, pro-

curement, and IT. Firm E stated that one of the key

changes that enabled their progress in climbing the

sales and operation management maturity ladder was

to understand and process vast amounts of data that

were available at the firm. Although the sales and

operation management teams were trying to measure

the same outcomes, the different data metrics across

the different functions became a hurdle during collabo-

ration efforts. The reconciliation process began by

holding a series of high-level meetings region by

region, involving sales, supply and product manage-

ment, with the purpose of defining a forecast per prod-

uct group. Through a process of data and trend

analysis, order book comparison, and taking into

Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management 223

account rollout schedules, a consensus demand volume

was reached and then translated into a consensus fore-

cast for all departments. The forecast was evaluated by

the planning team as well as the purchasing team, who

analyzed the plan with special attention to productivity

constraints and potential shortages, making a plan to

mitigate potential risks related to critical suppliers or

components.

Firm A involved finance in the second stage of their

sales and operation management process to aid in realistic

financial budgeting and forecasting. They also required

that the finance department assist in the forecasting of pro-

motional products whereas, historically, forecasting was

only for standard products. Firm A also mentioned that IT

involvement was crucial as the sales and operation man-

agement process relied heavily on tools such as vendor-

managed inventory (VMI) and collaborative planning,

forecasting, and replenishment (CPFR) with their main

customers.

Firm H created eight new business finance controllers

located within the specific regions. The finance controllers

reported to headquarters; however, the majority of their

work (approximately 80%–90%) was done with the

regional sales and operation management teams. Firm H

stated that this change had helped deliver greater opera-

tional efficiency through analyses including activity-based

costing, improved payment terms, and negotiating prices.

Firm I, to align the different perspectives and to miti-

gate conflict, created an “interface department.” Being in

a highly capital-intensive business and at the same time

oriented toward customer intimacy, the necessity for a

department that contributed to production planning and

was able to provide the sales team with the most accurate

information on areas such as lead times and quality levels

was of paramount importance. The “interface department”

acted as the knowledge center with responsibility for the

cost model and for judging which products were the most

appealing, in terms of both margins and technical fit to

production facilities.

Collaborative environment: internally (sales and opera- tions management) and externally

Our respondents stressed that firms must set up the right

structure to implement a collaborative environment where

the internal teams communicate, align, and share knowl-

edge/experience to guarantee success of the sales and

operation management processes. The companies also

commented that once internal collaboration is achieved

(among the sales and operations management teams), the

principles should be extended externally, that is, by col-

laboration with the customers.

Firm J decided to establish a biweekly, sales-lead

meeting. The first purpose of the meeting was to discuss

upcoming deals/projects and which projects were to be

the operational priorities. The second purpose was to raise

awareness of the potential changes in the regulatory envi-

ronment and other constraints that could directly impact

the sales environment. The meeting was mandatory for

sales and operations management departments to ensure

the necessary level of support for effective execution.

Firm F was able to promote both internal and external

collaboration between the sales and operations teams on

one side and the customer on the other. The company

introduced “an annual voice of customer” exercise, which

brought all three groups together (sales, operations man-

agement, and the customer). From an internal collabora-

tion perspective, the meeting allowed sales and operations

to act as a single entity in front of the customer. From an

external collaboration perspective, the customer and the

company came together to discuss issues and resolutions

that affected them. Firm F also asked sales and operations

teams to work together to formulate logistic agreements

with the clients. Firm F found that this collaborative effort

contributed to high levels of conflict resolution within

internal functions and led to an increase in customer

satisfaction.

Firm C, which had more than 1,000 salespeople and

key account managers, had operations management teams

visiting customers monthly to understand any emerging

issues and to help design solutions to address these issues.

This monthly meeting allowed operations to meet with

customers and enhanced collaboration not only with the

external customer but also with the internal sales team.

Firm G’s products typically were made to order, mak-

ing it important to analyze historical sales data and merge

those results with customer forecasts. Firm G had to

address the bullwhip effect (Lee, Padmanabhan, and

Whang 1997), referring to the increased oscillations in

demand upstream in the supply chain. As the production

of the firm had historically been sold out and customers

could not receive the desired volumes, they over ordered,

leading to a forecast accuracy of only 50%. Looking for a

solution, the company decided to have sales and opera-

tions collaborate more closely with their customers and

incentivize them to provide accurate forecasts. This led to

decreased inventory costs, better margins, and higher cus-

tomer satisfaction levels.

Goal alignment

Most of the executives we interviewed discussed the

importance of aligning the goals of the sales and the oper-

ations team. Again, each company tailored the goal align-

ment to fit their specific organization needs, but goals for

all firms were to ensure each team was working toward

the same common goal of optimizing efficiency to ensure

maximum profit. The companies achieved goal alignment

between the departments through common key perfor-

mance indicators (KPIs) and bonus schemes.

224 D. Rangarajan et al.

For example, Firm G redesigned the employee bonus

scheme for the sales and operations departments to be

fully aligned with the success of the overall business. Spe-

cifically, 50% of the KPIs for both sales and operations

teams were related to sales volumes and other measures

of overall market success, and the remaining 50% were

department-specific KPIs related to efficiency, costs, and

so on. Firm G also reported that logistics and packaging

managers now cooperate with sales to deliver the right

packaging, improve yield for the customers, and commu-

nicate other projects among the teams to raise their inter-

nal capabilities and directly influence customer

satisfaction.

Firm C restructured their divisions so that the division

presidents were now responsible for the entire profit and

loss statement to align goals across departments. The

company also stated that their global key account manag-

ers were now responsible for product sales and service

levels as well as the overall net promoter score (NPS)

(Reichheld 2003), the common metric of success across

the different departments.

Firm D had also moved toward common KPIs. Histor-

ically, the external sales force was evaluated on sales KPIs

(e.g., revenue or volume), which had resulted in the sales

force demanding universal product availability. Now both

sales and operations evaluations are based on overall com-

pany margin, with particular attention to operational costs.

Subsequently at Firm D, the internal sales team takes the

initiative to interact more frequently with customers to

develop a better understanding of the demand forecasts.

The preceding examples were not the only common

KPIs mentioned by the interviewed companies. At Firm

A, the sales and operations management teams focus on

forecast accuracy from their external customers to reduce

days of inventory. They have monthly or weekly meetings

to discuss forecast updates. For Firm B, forecast accuracy

and managing stock levels had become KPIs. Finally,

Firm E had a common KPI for forecast accuracy for both

sales and operations management. They evaluated both

teams on a common metric – ‘on time in full’ (OTIF),

inventory turns, lead times, and total inventory levels.

Organizational culture

Our interviews suggested that it is important that all

employees understand the alignment processes, are able

to impact it, and know that their efforts are valued and

rewarded. To ensure that employees have this knowledge

and the right capabilities, many companies in our research

cited the importance of their company culture as a key

success factor for better sales and operations management

alignment.

The majority of participants we interviewed described

the importance of each functional department understanding

each other’s processes and goals. Many companies

suggested that their organizational culture encouraged

cross-functional knowledge sharing through either job rota-

tions or special assignments. For example, at Firm G, the

operations employees were encouraged to take technical

support functions jobs. Since the employees experienced the

goals and principles of other functions, both sales and opera-

tions management were able to better work together for the

common good of the customer and the company.

Firm C also promoted job rotations within different

functions. Regarding the sales and operation management

alignment process, job rotations on the product, the ser-

vice, and the sales function were a requisite for a success-

ful career at Firm C. In addition, annually, employees

who showed high potential were asked to work on a spe-

cial assignment within a different function. Through these

programs, Firm C had seen a drastic improvement in the

willingness of employees to work together.

Firm D saw that a recent change in the structure of

their training programs had been responsible for improved

cooperation among their sales and operation management

teams. The company saw the need for greater cooperation

and understanding between the departments. Therefore,

they decided to require departments to take common train-

ing programs simultaneously, which led to enhanced

profitability.

Top-management involvement

The interviewed managers described how top-manage-

ment involvement improved sales and operation manage-

ment alignment processes. Every enhanced interaction

strategy aimed at better integrating sales and operations

functions tended to require structural changes as well as

capital investments (e.g., IT, training, KPIs, incentives),

which required top-management support.

Firm E executives hold a yearly sales and operation

management meeting to present the finalized 12-month

forecast plan to management. After this meeting, the plan

is communicated in a top-down approach where the

department heads inform each region of the plan. Firm C

traditionally had a separate production division and a sep-

arate selling division. One unified division was created in

which top management were responsible for the profit and

loss of the combined division, leading to enhanced overall

financial health.

In summary, the qualitative research highlighted the

importance of collaboration between sales and operations

management, and the research identified five practices

and 16 processes that are critical elements in the success

of effective collaboration between sales and operations

management. These are other functional team involve-

ment (finance, product management, too much data avail-

able, need for business analytics, difficulty in common

KPI setting, and creation of interface department);

collaborative environment – internally and externally

Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management 225

(mandatory cross-functional meetings, joint meeting –

sales/operation/customers, increased client engagement to

unite sales and operations management, and client incen-

tives to unite sales and operations); goal alignment (sales

and operations outcomes aligned with overall business,

top management KPI alignment, salespeople getting over-

all customer satisfaction targets, sales/operation responsi-

ble for accurate forecasting); organizational culture (job

rotations, special organizational programs to promote col-

laboration, joint training programs); and top-management

involvement (organizational structure change).

Literature review

The second part of our research was determining the

extant literature at the intersection of sales and operations

management. We surveyed the extant literature that

embodies the configuration and alignment of the sales

function and the operations management function as fol-

lows. Drawing on the methodology by Higgins and Green

(2011), we first explored the literature by searching for

the following keywords in the Web of Science database:

sales and operations alignment, sales and operation man-

agement alignment, sales and operation integration, sales

operations, and operations selling. A number of articles

discuss the relationship but not the configuration of the

broader marketing function with the operations/

manufacturing function (e.g., Cron et al. 2014), methodol-

ogy issues when examining the cross-functional relation-

ships (e.g., Frankel and Mollenkopf 2015), or the impact

of cross-functional integration on the organizational level

(e.g., Enz and Lambert 2015; Swink and Schoenherr

2015). However, most of these articles focus on sales as a

function of turnover levels rather than on the actual sales

function. In this research, we focused on the specific con-

text of integrating both functions that foster the sales func-

tion, rather than improving operations planning.

To identify the extant cross-functional research from

1980 to 2017, we examined articles that were published in

different literature streams. The journals in our sample are

either rooted in the marketing and/or sales domains (e.g.,

Journal of Marketing, the Journal of the Academy of Mar-

keting Sciences, Industrial Marketing Management, and

Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing) or embed-

ded in the operations management research field (e.g.,

Journal of Business Logistics, Journal of Supply Chain

Management, Production and Operations Management,

The International Journal of Logistics Management, Jour-

nal of Operations Management, International Journal of

Production Economics, International Journal of Physical

Distribution and Logistics Management, and International

Journal of Forecasting) or in the broader general manage-

ment area (e.g., Management Science, Decision Sciences,

Business Horizons, Industrial Management and Data

Systems).

This search yielded a total of 34 research articles that

focused on the interaction between the sales and opera-

tions management functions. The coding of the research

articles was conducted by a researcher who was “blind” to

the hypotheses of the research project and who used a set

of five different coding variables that embody the scope

of the research project. The variables that were used are

as follows: (1) type of research (either conceptual or

empirical), (2) nature of the data set, (3) functional needs

(sales and/or operations management) that were

addressed, (4) key findings, and (5) discussion on the inte-

gration of operations and sales function. Based on this

review, a total of 34 articles were identified, of which 21

articles were based on empirical/qualitative case study–

based research and 13 were conceptual in nature. Table 2

presents an overview of the research that discusses the

integration of sales and operations management functions.

Of the empirical/case study–based research articles,

seven papers used data from the sales function, two

articles collected data from the operations management

function, and 12 articles collected data from both func-

tions (i.e., the sales-operations management dyad). Some

of the key articles are discussed next.

Zarpelon Neto, Pereira, and Borchardt (2015) col-

lected data from the sales function to specifically

address the needs of the operations management func-

tion. In their work, the researchers examine possible

issues in servicing customers worldwide, and in this

context, they find that six different managerial chal-

lenges arise when aligning functional areas internally.

These are (1) regulations that create advantages for the

local service company; (2) operational problems that

stem from employee turnover and the distance that

needs to be covered between clients, the factory, and

the structure that supports the service provision; (3)

the manufacturer culture (goods versus services-domi-

nant logic); (4) commercial approaches (a closed rela-

tionship between the manufacturer and the customer

that does not support unforeseen situations, lack of an

understanding about the long-term profitability of each

client, the issues that arise when contracts are inflexi-

ble, and when sales teams have to sell products and

services at the same time); (5) poor manufacturer

knowledge of customer needs and values (how this

knowledge should be obtained, spread, and used).

Of the 12 articles that collected data from both sales

and operations management functions, we identified 10

that address both the needs of the operations and the sales

function. We briefly summarize these articles. Ivert et al.

(2015) used case study research (examined eight compa-

nies from the food industry) and discussed the integration

of sales and operations subject to the planning environ-

ment. The researchers present a set of eventualities linked

to supply that need to be incorporated into the sales

and operation management setup and process. These

226 D. Rangarajan et al.

T ab le 2 .

S am

p le d ar ti cl es

w it h a d is cu ss io n o n th e in te g ra ti o n o f th e sa le s an d o p er at io n s fu n ct io n .

C it at io n

E m p ir ic al o r

co n ce p tu al ?

W h o ar e d at a

co ll ec te d fr o m ?

W h o se

n ee d s ar e

ad d re ss ed ?

K ey

fi n d in g (s )

C h en , L ai , an d X ia o (2 0 1 5 )

C o n ce p tu al

N o p ri m ar y d at a

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es p eo p le ar e id ea ll y p o si ti o n ed

to co ll ec t th e n ec es sa ry

m ar k et in fo rm

at io n fo r

en h an ci n g th e co m p an y ’s p ro d u ct io n p la n n in g at a lo w co st .

C o o p er

an d B u d d (2 0 0 7 )

C o n ce p tu al

N o p ri m ar y d at a

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

P re se n ta ti o n o f a th eo re ti ca l m o d el th at sy n ch ro n iz es

th e sa le s fu n n el an d p ro je ct

o p er at io n s in to

th e w h o le m ar k et in g p ro je ct cy cl e.

E n g el se th

an d F el ze n sz te in

(2 0 1 2 )

E m p ir ic al : o n e ca se

st u d y

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

O p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

B u si n es s re la ti o n sh ip s ar e cr u ci al fo r in te rl in k in g an d co o rd in at io n b et w ee n sa le s an d

o p er at io n s.

F en g , D ’A

m o u rs , an d

B ea u re g ar d (2 0 0 8 )

E m p ir ic al : o n e ca se

st u d y

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

A su p p ly -c h ai n -b as ed

sa le s an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t p ro v id es

su p er io r p er fo rm

an ce

to a sa le s- p ro d u ct io n -b as ed

sa le s an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t an d d ec o u p le d

p la n n in g in

al l ca se s.

F en g , M ar te l, D ’A

m o u rs ,

an d B ea u re g ar d (2 0 1 3 )

E m p ir ic al : o n e ca se

st u d y

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es

T h e au th o rs p ro p o se

a m ak e- to -o rd er

m o d el th at sh o u ld

le ad

to b et te r m an u fa ct u re r

d ec is io n s. T h ey

su g g es t a d ec re as e in

th e n u m b er

o f cu st o m er

co n tr ac t o ff er s w h en

th e ec o n o m y is u n st ab le in

o rd er

to en d u p w it h fe w er

n o n p ro fi ta b le co n tr ac t

o b li g at io n s.

G ri m so n an d P y k e (2 0 0 7 )

C o n ce p tu al

N o p ri m ar y d at a

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

D ev el o p a fr am

ew o rk

th at co n si st s o f fi v e st ag es

fo r as se ss in g th e le v el o f sa le s an d

o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t m at u ri ty . O f th e fi v e id en ti fi ed

d im

en si o n s, th e b u si n es s

p ro ce ss

is th e en ab le r o f in te g ra ti n g a p la n fo r sa le s an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t.

Iv er t et

al . (2 0 1 5 )

E m p ir ic al : m u lt ip le

ca se

st u d ie s

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

Id en ti fy

a n ew

se t o f co n ti n g en ci es

co n n ec te d to

su p p ly

n ee d s th at sh o u ld

b e

in co rp o ra te d in to

th e sa le s an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t se tu p an d p ro ce ss , su ch

as u n ce rt ai n ty

co n n ec te d to

d em

an d an d m at er ia l su p p ly , fr eq u en t p ro d u ct la u n ch es , an d

p ro d u ct io n n et w o rk

co m p le x it y .

O ’L ea ry -K

el ly

an d F lo re s

(2 0 0 2 )

E m p ir ic al

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

B u si n es s st ra te g y an d d em

an d u n ce rt ai n ty

h av e a m o d er at in g ef fe ct o n th e re la ti o n sh ip

b et w ee n th e in te g ra ti o n o f m ar k et in g / sa le s- b as ed

an d m an u fa ct u ri n g d ec is io n s an d

o rg an iz at io n al p er fo rm

an ce . M ar k et in g /s al es -b as ed

d ec is io n s h av e a p o si ti v e

m o d er at in g ef fe ct o n th e re la ti o n sh ip

b et w ee n b u si n es s su cc es s an d th e in te g ra ti o n o f

sa le s an d m an u fa ct u ri n g , w h er ea s th e m an u fa ct u ri n g -b as ed

d ec is io n s h av e a n eg at iv e

m o d er at in g ef fe ct .

O li v a an d W at so n (2 0 1 1 )

O n e ca se

st u d y

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

C o n st ru ct iv e en g ag em

en t an d al ig n m en t ar e tw o co n st ru ct s th at ex p la in

th e p er fo rm

an ce

o f th e im

p le m en te d p la n n in g p ro ce ss . F o re ca st s th at ar e m ad e b y th e sa le s si d e fo r

o th er

fu n ct io n s ar e su b o p ti m al b ec au se

th ey

d o n o t al w ay s in co rp o ra te th e ta rg et s o f

o th er

fu n ct io n s.

S o le r an d T an g u y (1 9 9 8 )

C o n ce p tu al

N o p ri m ar y d at a

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

A k ey

fa ct o r to

im p ro v e th e co o rd in at io n b et w ee n m ar k et in g an d m an u fa ct u ri n g is

p la n n in g d es ig n .

S to rb ac k a (2 0 1 1 )

E m p ir ic al

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

T h e fr am

ew o rk

in th is ar ti cl e d ep ic ts th at fi rm

s th at se ll so lu ti o n s n ee d to

p ay

m o re

at te n ti o n to

th e m u lt if ac et ed

in te rf ac es

b et w ee n th e sa le s an d o p er at io n s fu n ct io n s.

S w ai m , M al o n i, B o w er ,

an d M el lo

(2 0 1 6 )

E m p ir ic al

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

T h is ar ti cl e h ig h li g h ts th e p ro ce ss

co n d it io n s th at ar e re q u ir ed

to g et th e m o st o u t o f

sa le s an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t. A li g n in g sa le s p la n n in g w it h ca p ac it y p la n n in g is

cr it ic al to

ac h ie v e h ig h er

le v el s o f co n tr o l an d ag il it y w it h in

th e co m p an y .

T h o m � e et

al . (2 0 1 2 )

C o n ce p tu al

N o p ri m ar y d at a

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

T h e sy st em

at ic re v ie w o f th e sa le s an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t li te ra tu re

in d ic at es , to

so m e ex te n t, th at cr o ss -f u n ct io n al p la n n in g p ro ce ss es

ca n al le v ia te th e co n se q u en ce

o f m is al ig n ed

ta rg et s an d st ru ct u re s o n th e co m p an y ’s re su lt s. F u rt h er m o re ,

en h an ce m en t o f co m m u n ic at io n s b et w ee n th e sa le s an d o p er at io n s fu n ct io n ca n al so

le ad

to im

p ro v em

en ts o f fi rm

re su lt s.

(C o n ti n u ed

o n n ex t p a g e)

Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management 227

T ab le 2 .

S am

p le d ar ti cl es

w it h a d is cu ss io n o n th e in te g ra ti o n o f th e sa le s an d o p er at io n s fu n ct io n . (C o n ti n u ed )

C it at io n

E m p ir ic al o r

co n ce p tu al ?

W h o ar e d at a

co ll ec te d fr o m ?

W h o se

n ee d s ar e

ad d re ss ed ?

K ey

fi n d in g (s )

T o o n et

al . (2 0 1 6 )

O n e ca se

st u d y

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

T h e fr am

ew o rk

in th is ar ti cl e fo cu se s o n in te rn al o rg an iz at io n al in te g ra ti o n . T h e au th o rs

h ig h li g h t th e re la ti o n b et w ee n in te rn al in te g ra ti o n an d o p er at io n al ef fi ci en cy , an d

th ey

su g g es t th at fo cu si n g o n co st is v it al in

lo w v ar ia ti o n se tt in g s, w h er ea s

k n o w le d g e tr an sf er s b et w ee n fu n ct io n s ar e m o re

im p o rt an t in

in n o v at iv e sc en ar io s.

T u o m ik an g as

an d K ai p ia

(2 0 1 4 )

C o n ce p tu al

N o p ri m ar y d at a

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

T h is li te ra tu re

re v ie w sh ed s li g h t o n tw o m ai n av en u es

fo r fu tu re

re se ar ch

in th e sa le s

an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t ar ea . O n e is th at m o re

em p ir ic al st u d ie s ar e n ee d ed

to ex am

in e th e co m p le x it y o f sa le s an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t an d h o w th is sh o u ld

b e

im p le m en te d . A s a se co n d av en u e fo r fu tu re

re se ar ch , th is ar ti cl e em

p h as iz es

th e n ee d

to st u d y h o w sa le s an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t ca n b e u se d to

ac h ie v e co m p an y

o b je ct iv es .

T u rk u la in en

et al . (2 0 1 3 )

O n e ca se

st u d y

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

T h is ar ti cl e p o in ts o u t th at o rg an iz at io n al d es ig n n ee d s m o re

d et ai l in

o rd er

to fu ll y g ra sp

an d im

p le m en t th e m an ag er ia l p ro b le m s. T h e as so ci at ed

n ee d s an d m ec h an is m s ar e

st ro n g ly

in fl u en ce d b y co n te x tu al fa ct o rs , an d th u s v ar y , n o t o n ly

ac ro ss

co m p an y

le v el , b u t al so

am o n g in d iv id u al p ro je ct s.

W ag n er , U ll ri ch , an d

T ra n sc h el (2 0 1 4 )

O n e ca se

st u d y

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

T h e ca se

st u d y co n cl u d es

w it h a m at u ri ty

m o d el th at im

p li es

th at a b et te r al ig n m en t

b et w ee n sa le s an d o p er at io n s ca n re su lt in

h ig h er

se rv ic e le v el s.

M en tz er , S ta n k , an d E sp er

(2 0 0 8 )

C o n ce p tu al

N o p ri m ar y d at a

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

T h is ar ti cl e p re se n ts a cl as si fi ca ti o n fr am

ew o rk

fr o m

th e p er sp ec ti v e o f b o th

si d es

– m ar k et in g (s al es ) an d o p er at io n s – o n d ec is io n sc o p es

an d fu n ct io n al ar ea s.

K ai p ia et

al .( 2 0 1 7 )

C as e st u d ie s

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

T h is ar ti cl e d em

o n st ra te s, b as ed

o n a se t o f co n te x tu al fa ct o rs , w h et h er

th e m an u fa ct u re r

sh o u ld

co n si d er

co ll ab o ra ti v e sa le s an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t p ro ce ss es .

E sp er

et al . (2 0 1 0 )

C o n ce p tu al

N o p ri m ar y d at a

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

T h is ar ti cl e st at es

th at v al u e cr ea ti o n th ro u g h in tr ao rg an iz at io n al k n o w le d g e

m an ag em

en t b et w ee n su p p ly

ch ai n an d m ar k et in g /s al es

se rv es

as a b as is fo r cr ea ti n g

cu st o m er

v al u e.

P at el , A za d eg an , an d

E ll ra m

(2 0 1 3 )

E m p ir ic al

O p er at io n s

S al es

an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t

T h is ar ti cl e p o in ts o u t th at st ra te g ic su p p ly

ch ai n o p er at io n is li n k ed

to cu st o m er -f o cu se d

an d o p er at io n al p er fo rm

an ce . H o w ev er , th e re su lt s in d ic at e th at st ru ct u ra l su p p ly

ch ai n o p er at io n is o n ly

as so ci at ed

w it h o p er at io n al p er fo rm

an ce .

228 D. Rangarajan et al.

contingencies are the uncertainty related to demand and

supply, the effect of many product introductions, and the

complexity of the production system.

Laanti, Gabrielsson, and Gabrielsson (2007) examined

global companies in the wireless technology sector and

identifed that “born global” firms are different from com-

panies with traditional internalization processes. A key

result of their research is that these “born globals” were

faster in setting up local sales and marketing branches.

The main explanation for this result is the nature of the

sales offering of this case, a digital service and software

that can be easily distributed online. Yet the alignment

between operations and sales is not discussed in this

article.

O’Leary-Kelly and Flores (2002) discussed the inter-

connected decisions between the sales function and

manufacturing/operations function. The authors identified

business models and demand uncertainty as two moderat-

ing effects on the path between the six dimensions of busi-

ness success (product innovation, cost leadership, superior

quality, on-time delivery, product breadth, perceived

demand uncertainty) and the integration of sales and

manufacturing. The direction of the relationship differed

depending on the type of decision that was examined

(marketing/sales–based or manufacturing-based) and the

type of respondent that measured the integration (market-

ing/sales versus manufacturing respondent). Their results

show that the marketing/sales–based decisions have a pos-

itive moderating effect on the relationship between busi-

ness success and the integration of sales and

manufacturing, whereas the manufacturing-based deci-

sions have a negative moderating effect. The suggested

rationale is that marketing/sales-based choices usually

serve as a basis for manufacturing-based operational

decisions.

Drawing on case study research, Oliva and Watson

(2011) examine the cross-functional conflicts in supply

chain planning. The authors propose that two constructs,

alignment and constructive engagement, mediate the per-

formance of implemented planning processes. In their

case study, they identified that forecasts made by the sales

force for other functions usually contained many flaws

because of the lack of quality related to the shared infor-

mation, the procedure used, the alignment, or the little

engagement between the two functions.

Storbacka (2011) depicted 12 categories that cover 64

capabilities and management practices related to the

effective management of solution businesses. The con-

struction of the 12 categories is based on four steps of the

solution process (develop solutions, create demand, sell

solution, and deliver solution) combined with three clus-

ters of cross-functionality (commercialization, industriali-

zation, and solution platform). An effective business

model that is based on solutions requires a sophisticated

synchronization of resources and business processes

among all functions. The presented framework in the arti-

cle depicts that firms need to focus more on the multiface-

ted interfaces between the commercial and the industrial

side of the company. Solutions businesses are in essence

cross-functional, which requires the outline of new bound-

ary-spanning roles, within and between firm functions.

Swaim et al. (2016) suggested that a better alignment

of the sales and operations function leads to increased

control and agility of the business. They also found that

organizational sales and operations management engage-

ment is positively related to higher operational, market,

and profitability outcomes.

Turkulainen et al. (2013) explored the use of integra-

tion mechanisms (vertical, lateral formal, or lateral infor-

mal) in one case study, and the researchers indicated how

these mechanisms vary over different project phases (proj-

ect sales or project execution phase) due to contextual

factors.

Wagner et al. (2014) depicted a maturity model on

how well the sales and operations functions are integrated.

This model evaluates the internal sales and operation

management process and aims to improve the organiza-

tional alignment. The sales and operations management

maturity model consists of six levels (undeveloped, rudi-

mentary, reactive, consistent, integrated, and proactive)

and four dimensions (process effectiveness, process effi-

ciency, people and organization, and information technol-

ogy). The key result of this maturity model is that higher

levels of sales and operations management maturity

increase the sophistication of sales and operations man-

agement integration.

Finally, Feng et al. (2008) discussed how sales and

operations management results in better financial perfor-

mance when it is grounded in the supply chain than when

sales and operations management is founded on a sales/

production–based sales and operations management

relation.

The last two of the 12 articles that sample both sales

and operations management functions only address the

needs of one function. First, Engelseth and Felzensztein

(2012) collected data from sales and operations manage-

ment functions and addressed the needs of the sales func-

tion. Their research suggests that business relationships

are vital for linking and coordination between the two

functions. Second, in the case study on contract decisions

by Feng et al. (2013), the research sampled both sales and

operations management executives and incorporated the

needs of the salespeople to better coordinate the supply

chain regarding make-to-order manufacturing.

The themes that arise from the literature are as

follows:

1. Collaboration between sales and operations man-

agement is critical for the success of firms (Ivert

et al. 2015; Laanti, Garbrielsson, and Gabrielsson

Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management 229

2007; Storbacka 2011; Engelseth and Felzensz-

tein 2012).

2. Enhanced sales and operations management col-

laboration can reduce negative sales and opera-

tions management effects (Oliva and Watson

2011; O’Leary-Kelly and Flores 2002).

3. Greater sales and operations management

collaboration can improve positive sales and

operations management effects (O’Leary-Kelly

and Flores 2002; Swaim, Maloni, Bower, and

Mello 2016; Feng, D’Amours, and Beauregard

2008; Feng et al. 2008).

Survey of academic researchers

An area that we wanted to further explore was the direc-

tion for future research. The ideal respondents for this

task are researchers active in the business-to-business and

sales domains. We exactly followed the research design

of Paesbrugghe et al. (2018). Given the broad research

areas that could possibly be identified, we used a categori-

zation that would help us better address topics for future

research (Paesbrugghe et al. 2018). We used the standard

20 categories of sales and sales management research sug-

gested by Plouffe, Williams, and Wachner (2008).

To identify the research topics, we used the survey

designed by Paesbrugghe et al. (2018) to test what topics

categories proposed by Plouffe, Williams, and Wachner

(2008) are important for understanding collaboration

between sales and operations management and to identify

research questions linked to the particular research topic.

We used a self-administered online questionnaire

designed by Paesbrugghe et al. (2018) and used their sam-

ple of marketing and sales researchers who were on edito-

rial review boards of Journal of Personal Selling and

Sales Management and Industrial Marketing Manage-

ment. The link to the online questionnaire was sent to 440

researchers (email addresses were developed through pub-

lic sources) with a reminder after one week. After two

weeks, we got responses from 16 academics who men-

tioned that they were not active in this area of research

and so opted out of the survey. We checked the list for

duplicate email addresses since it is possible to be a mem-

ber of both review boards. In addition to initial requests,

after seven months, we decided to reach out to those aca-

demics who had not filled out the survey. In total, we

received 52 usable responses (32 completed question-

naires in the first two rounds and 20 completed question-

naires in the third round). In analyzing the data from the

first set of responses and the second set, the top five areas

of study remained the same.

As stated earlier, we used the questionnaire designed

by Paesbrugghe et al. (2018) to determine the importance

of examining the importance of topics within categories

suggested by Plouffe, Williams, and Wachner (2008).

Similar to Paesbrugghe et al. (2018), we used the same

questions for all 20 research topics. For each category, the

category description and topic definition were provided.

As an example, for selling process and technique the fol-

lowing data were provided:

Category Topic: Selling process and technique (e.g.,

intelligence, personality, knowledge structure characteris-

tics and content, selling technique interaction strategies)

Topic Definition: Individual-level approaches to

improving the effectiveness of customer and prospect

interactions and sales outcomes

Similar to Paesbrugghe et al. (2018), for category

1, the question was “We would like your opinion on

the importance of studying the following topic when

examining the intersection of personal selling and sales

management and operations management. Please rate

from 1 to 7 (1 D not important and 7 D very important).” This was followed by the category topic

and definition. In addition, we asked, “If you think the

topic ‘selling process and technique’ is important, can

you please share a possible research question?” We

asked these questions for all 20 categories. We calcu-

lated the importance for each topic; the five most

important topics and their means are as follows: tech-

nology/sales-force automation (5.83); forecasting

(5.50); sales evaluation and performance (5.43); intra-

organizational issues (5.40); and sales/marketing strat-

egy (5.19). These were the only areas with a mean

above 5.

Summary of research findings

To summarize research in this area and avenues for future

research, we review the three research approaches. We

first use the qualitative study as a base and determine

whether the factors were addressed in the literature survey

or in the survey of academics; the results are presented in

Table 3.

Of the 16 subtopics suggested by our qualitative

research, we found that 11 were examined in research or

highlighted by academic researchers. We regard this to be

a check on the validity of our results. However, we identi-

fied five areas that were not discussed in literature or aca-

demic survey – creation of an interface department to deal

with better sales and operations management, salespeople

getting overall customer satisfaction targets to force them

to work better with their operations management counter-

parts, organizational culture issues such as job rotations,

special organizational programs to promote collaboration,

joint training programs, and finally top-management

involvement to align sales and operations management

better.

Second, we examined the top five areas for research

identified by academic researchers (technology/sales-

force automation, forecasting, sales evaluation and

230 D. Rangarajan et al.

T ab le 3 .

M at ch in g q u al it at iv e fi n d in g s w it h li te ra tu re

re v ie w an d ac ad em

ic su rv ey .

C as e st u d y th em

es L it er at u re

re v ie w

R es ea rc h q u es ti o n s fr o m

ac ad em

ic su rv ey

O th er

fu n ct io n al te am

in v o lv em

en t

D o co n tr ad ic ti n g o b je ct iv es

(e .g ., sa le s fo cu si n g o n

h ig h se rv ic e le v el s an d o p er at io n s o n in v en to ry

re d u ct io n ) in cr ea se

th e te n si o n b et w ee n d if fe re n t

d ep ar tm

en ts ?

In v o lv em

en t o f o th er

fu n ct io n al d o m ai n s su ch

as fi n an ce ,

p ro d u ct m an ag em

en t, et c.

F en g , D ’A

m o u rs , an d B ea u re g ar d (2 0 0 8 )

W h at p er fo rm

an ce

m et ri cs

sh o u ld

b e u se d to

co m p en sa te in si d e (o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t) an d

o u ts id e sa le sp eo p le eq u it ab ly ?

T o o m u ch

d at a av ai la b le , n ee d fo r b u si n es s an al y ti cs

S to rb ac k a (2 0 1 1 )

H o w ca n d ig it al d at a in fo rm

fo re ca st in g – se as o n al it y /

fl u ct u at io n o f d em

an d ?

D if fi cu lt y in

co m m o n K P I se tt in g

T o o n et

al . (2 0 1 6 )

H o w ca n o n e fo re ca st sa le s u si n g b u y er s’ b ro w si n g

p at te rn s?

C re at io n o f an

in te rf ac e d ep ar tm

en t

C o ll ab o ra ti o n : in te rn al /e x te rn al

M an d at o ry

cr o ss -f u n ct io n al m ee ti n g s

W ag n er , U ll ri ch , an d T ra n sc h el (2 0 1 4 )

Jo in t m ee ti n g – sa le s/ o p er at io n s/ cu st o m er s

E n g el se th

an d F el ze n sz te in

(2 0 1 2 )

In cr ea se d cl ie n t en g ag em

en t to

u n it e sa le s/ o p er at io n s

Iv er t et

al . (2 0 1 5 )

C li en t in ce n ti v es

to u n it e sa le s an d o p er at io n s

O li v a an d W at so n (2 0 1 1 ); S to rb ac k a (2 0 1 1 )

W h at ar e th e co n fl ic ts b et w ee n p er so n al se ll in g an d

sa le s m an ag em

en t an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t?

T o o ls fo r m an ag in g in

th e er a o f n ew

cu st o m er

d ec is io n

jo u rn ey ?

G o al al ig n m en t

H o w ca n th e g o al s o f p er so n al se ll in g an d sa le s

m an ag em

en t an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t b e

al ig n ed ?

S al es

an d o p er at io n s o u tc o m es

al ig n ed

w it h o v er al l b u si n es s

S w ai m

et al . (2 0 1 6 )

W h at in ce n ti v es

d ri v e p er so n al se ll in g an d sa le s

m an ag em

en t an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t

in te g ra ti o n ?

T o p m an ag em

en t K P I al ig n m en t

O ’L ea ry -K

el ly

an d F lo re s (2 0 0 2 )

S al es p eo p le g et ti n g o v er al l cu st o m er

sa ti sf ac ti o n ta rg et s

S al es /o p er at io n re sp o n si b le fo r ac cu ra te fo re ca st in g

F en g et

al . (2 0 1 3 )

H o w ca n te ch n o lo g y (A

I, m ac h in e le ar n in g ) h el p

o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t fo re ca st d em

an d fr o m

ex am

in in g sa le s so ft w ar e (e .g ., sa le sf o rc e. co m )?

H o w d o es

sa le s au to m at io n af fe ct o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t in

b et te r fo re ca st in g ?

O rg an iz at io n al cu lt u re

Jo b ro ta ti o n s

S p ec ia l o rg an iz at io n al p ro g ra m s to

p ro m o te co ll ab o ra ti o n

Jo in t tr ai n in g p ro g ra m s

T o p m an ag em

en t in v o lv em

en t

O rg an iz at io n al st ru ct u re

ch an g e

T u rk u la in en

et al . (2 0 1 3 )

H o w d o es

IC T (i n te rn et co m m u n ic at io n te ch n o lo g ie s)

af fe ct sa le s- fo rc e st ru ct u re

(i .e ., th e co m p o si ti o n an d

sp li t b et w ee n in si d e [o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t] an d

o u ts id e sa le sp eo p le )?

S h o u ld

re se ar ch er s ex am

in e sa le s au to m at io n b ef o re

lo o k in g at in te g ra ti o n o f fu n ct io n s?

Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management 231

T ab le 4 .

S u m m ar y o f fi n d in g s u si n g q u es ti o n n ai re .

T o p ic P lo u ff e, W il li am

s, an d W ac h n er

(2 0 0 8 )

Q u al it at iv e re se ar ch

L it er at u re

su rv ey

S am

p le re se ar ch

q u es ti o n s (f ro m

su rv ey

o f ac ad em

ic re se ar ch er s)

F ir m -l ev el

In tr ao rg an iz at io n al

is su es

O th er

fu n ct io n al te am

in v o lv em

en t;

co ll ab o ra ti v e en v ir o n m en t: in te rn al ly

an d

ex te rn al ly ; g o al al ig n m en t; o rg an iz at io n al

cu lt u re ; an d to p m an ag em

en t in v o lv em

en t

E n g el se th

an d F el ze n sz te in

(2 0 1 2 ); C h en , L ai , an d

X ia o (2 0 1 5 ); F en g , D ’A

m o u rs , an d B ea u re g ar d

(2 0 0 8 ); F er re l, In g ra m , an d L aF o rg e (2 0 0 0 );

G ri m so n an d P y k e (2 0 0 7 ); O ’L ea ry -K

el ly

an d

F lo re s (2 0 0 2 ); O li v a an d W at so n (2 0 1 1 ); R an d al l,

N et es si n e, an d R u d i (2 0 0 6 ); S o le r an d T an g u y

(1 9 9 8 ); S to rb ac k a (2 0 1 1 ); S w ai m

et al . (2 0 1 6 );

T o o n et

al . (2 0 1 6 ); W ag n er , U ll ri ch , an d

T ra n sc h el (2 0 1 4 ); W il so n , B o st r€ o m , an d L u n d in

(1 9 9 9 ); Z ac k ar ia ss o n an d W il so n (2 0 0 4 );

Z ar p el o n N et o , P er ei ra , an d B o rc h ar d t (2 0 1 5 )

�T o p -p er fo rm

in g sa le sp eo p le h av e h ig h re p u ta ti o n al

ef fe ct an d ar e ab le to

g ar n er

re q u ir ed

su p p o rt . W h at

se ts th em

ap ar t?

�W h at in ce n ti v es

d ri v e p er so n al se ll in g an d sa le s

m an ag em

en t an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t

in te g ra ti o n ?

�W h at ar e th e co n fl ic ts b et w ee n p er so n al se ll in g an d

sa le s m an ag em

en t an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t?

�H o w ca n th e g o al s o f p er so n al se ll in g an d sa le s

m an ag em

en t an d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t b e al ig n ed ?

S al es / m ar k et in g

st ra te g y

N eg at iv e im

p ac t o f la ck

o f co o rd in at io n

E n g el se th

an d F el ze n st ei n (2 0 1 2 ); L aa n ti ,

G ab ri el ss o n , an d G ab ri el ss o n (2 0 0 7 ); Z ar p el o n

N et o , P er ei ra , an d B o rc h ar d t (2 0 1 5 )

�S h o u ld

re se ar ch er s ex am

in e sa le s au to m at io n b ef o re

lo o k in g at in te g ra ti o n o f fu n ct io n s?

�U n d er st an d in g th e re la ti o n sh ip

b et w ee n sa le s

st ra te g y an d en h an ce d o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t.

�I s sa le s st ra te g y an

im p ed im

en t to

b et te r fo re ca st in g ?

S al es -m

an ag em

en t le v el

T ec h n o lo g y / sa le s- fo rc e

au to m at io n

C o m b in in g d at a fr o m

sa le s w it h h is to ri ca l

d at a to

cr ea te b u si n es s in si g h ts

B ar k er

et al . (2 0 0 9 ); F en g et

al . (2 0 1 3 );

Z ac k ar ia ss o n an d W il so n (2 0 0 4 )

�H o w d o es

IC T (i n te rn et co m m u n ic at io n te ch n o lo g y )

af fe ct sa le s- fo rc e st ru ct u re

(i .e ., th e co m p o si ti o n an d

sp li t b et w ee n in si d e [o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t] an d

o u ts id e sa le sp eo p le )?

�W h at ty p e o f te ch n o lo g y w il l en h an ce

p er so n al

se ll in g an d sa le s m an ag em

en t an d o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t co o rd in at io n ?

�H o w ca n te ch n o lo g y (A

I, m ac h in e le ar n in g ) h el p

o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t fo re ca st d em

an d fr o m

ex am

in in g sa le s so ft w ar e (e .g ., sa le sf o rc e. co m )?

�H o w d o es

sa le s au to m at io n af fe ct o p er at io n s

m an ag em

en t in

b et te r fo re ca st in g ?

�T o o ls fo r m an ag in g in

th e er a o f n ew

cu st o m er

d ec is io n jo u rn ey .

232 D. Rangarajan et al.

S al es

ev al u at io n an d

p er fo rm

an ce

C h an g in g th e ev al u at io n o f sa le sp eo p le to

in cl u d e o p er at io n s m ea su re s.

C h en , L ai , an d X ia o (2 0 1 5 ); F en g , D ’A

m o u rs , an d

B ea u re g ar d (2 0 0 8 ); L ee

an d G re w al (2 0 0 4 );

S to rb ac k a (2 0 1 1 )

�D o co n tr ad ic ti n g o b je ct iv es

(e .g ., sa le s fo cu si n g o n

h ig h se rv ic e le v el s an d o p er at io n s o n in v en to ry

re d u ct io n ) in cr ea se

th e te n si o n b et w ee n d if fe re n t

d ep ar tm

en ts ?

� W h at p er fo rm

an ce

m et ri cs

sh o u ld

b e u se d to

co m p en sa te in si d e (o p er at io n s m an ag em

en t) an d

o u ts id e sa le sp eo p le eq u it ab ly ?

�S h o u ld

sa le sp eo p le ev al u at io n b e a 3 6 0 ev al u at io n ?

S al es p er so n le v el

F o re ca st in g

Is su e o f en h an ce d ac cu ra cy

o f fo re ca st in g

d is cu ss ed .

C o o p er

an d B u d d (2 0 0 7 ); D o er in g an d S u re sh

(2 0 1 6 ); F en g et

al . (2 0 1 3 ); Iv er t et

al . (2 0 1 5 );

O li v a an d W at so n (2 0 1 1 ); Z ar p el o n N et o ,

P er ei ra , an d B o rc h ar d t (2 0 1 5 )

�H o w ca n d ig it al d at a in fo rm

fo re ca st in g –

se as o n al it y /fl u ct u at io n o f d em

an d ?

�F o re ca st in g h as

to ta k e th e in d u st ry

se ct o r in to

ac co u n t. It ca n b e d o n e an d n ee d s to

b e d o n e

co m p le te ly

d if fe re n t in

d if fe re n t se ct o rs .

�H o w ca n a fi rm

en h an ce

fo re ca st in g ac cu ra cy ?

�W h at ar e th e an te ce d en ts an d co n se q u en ce s o f

en h an ce d fo re ca st in g ac cu ra cy ?

�H o w ca n o n e fo re ca st sa le s u si n g b u y er s’ b ro w si n g

p at te rn s?

Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management 233

performance, intraorganizational issues, and sales/market-

ing strategy) and map them to our findings from the quali-

tative study and the literature survey (see Table 4). We

found that all of the topic areas were addressed by litera-

ture survey (although in most topics we only found a

handful of studies, suggesting room for further research),

but one area was not addressed by practitioners – technol-

ogy/sales-force management.

Areas for future research

We focus on the five areas identified by sales researchers

and highlight areas for future research. In examining the

issues of sales and operations alignment, research can

address the issues at three levels – the organizational

level, which encapsulates cross-functional alignment

strategies; the sales-organization level, which primarily

focuses on the management of salespeople; and the indi-

vidual salesperson level. Although broadly classified, the

research does overlap. As an example, in examining the

impact of firm-level technology on alignment, there will

be implications at the sales-management and salesperson

levels. Our conceptual view of the overlapping research,

based on Sharma and Syam (2018), is presented in Fig-

ure 1. We have two areas at two levels – firm level (intra-

organizational issues and sales/marketing strategy) and

sales-management level (technology/sales-force automa-

tion; sales evaluation and performance) – and one area at

the salesperson level (forecasting). In addition, to enhance

validity, we conducted a second qualitative study that is

described next.

Qualitative research follow-up

To confirm that the gaps we identified through our

research are relevant to practitioners, we conducted

additional in-depth interviews with executives/practi-

tioners. We reached out to our contacts from the first

round of interviews; however, none of the original set of

people we interviewed were available to give us their

feedback on our list of research gaps. The reasons were as

follows: we were unable to contact executives through e-

mail because they had switched jobs, had retired, or were

laid off by their firms, or we contacted them but they did

not have the time to talk (over half of the original sample).

Consequently, we reached out to a new sample and were

able to conduct 11 interviews from 10 companies (see

Table 1). We used the same methodology as in our earlier

qualitative study to identify companies from different sec-

tors and executives from different functions. The inter-

views were conducted in the same manner as in the first

study. We used the method suggested by Lincoln and

Guba (1985).

Since we were dealing with a different set of compa-

nies than in our earlier study, we checked to see whether

the findings from the first study were relevant to the sec-

ond group as well. A quick review of the results by an

independent coder identified that the findings from the

qualitative studies were identical except for some new

practices, which were more in line with the research gaps

identified by the academic survey. In the following sec-

tion, we discuss the gaps that were identified in our

research, and drawing on further multidisciplinary

research, we identify areas for future research.

We discuss the five areas of future research as identi-

fied by sales researchers in more depth in the next sec-

tions. There are at the firm level (intraorganizational

issues and sales/marketing strategy), at the sales-manage-

ment level (technology/sales-force automation; sales eval-

uation and performance), and at the salesperson level

(forecasting).

Intraorganizational issues

In the academic field, our research yielded a number of

studies that focused on the domain of sales and operations

management collaboration (Engelseth and Felzensztein

2012; Chen, Lai, and Xiao 2015; Feng, D’Amours, and

Beauregard 2008; Ferrel, Ingram, and LaForge 2000;

Grimson and Pyke 2007; O’Leary-Kelly and Flores 2002;

Oliva and Watson 2011; Randall, Netessine, and Rudi

2006; Sheth and Sharma 2006; Soler and Tanguy 1998;

Storbacka 2011; Swaim et al. 2016; Toon et al. 2016;

Wagner, Ullrich, and Transchel 2014; Wilson, Bostr€om, and Lundin 1999; Zackariasson and Wilson 2004; Zarpe-

lon Neto, Pereira, and Borchardt 2015), but most of this

research was qualitative in nature, thereby indicating the

need for more quantitative research on this topic. One of

the research questions raised by academics was about the

ability of salespeople to garner required support. This is in

keeping with recent research by Plouffe et al. (2016), whoFigure 1. Areas of future research.

234 D. Rangarajan et al.

suggested that salespeople need to create a “portfolio of

relationships.” They found that strategic frontline employ-

ees who use effective persuasive measures with their

internal colleagues are more likely to perform better. We

think that this research can be extended to understand

how salespeople can use different persuasive tactics with

their operations counterparts. Interestingly, Kaski, Niemi,

and Pullins (2018) proposed an innovative methodology

that involved in-depth qualitative interviews, conversation

analysis of sales situations, and follow-up interviews to

analyze rapport building in salesperson–customer interac-

tions. We think that this methodology could also be

applied to understand how salespeople build rapport with

their operations management counterpart.

Research in the domain of customer centricity identi-

fies ways by which organizations can align their internal

departments to deliver customer value (Gulati 2013). For

example, Cuevas (2018) suggested that sales professionals

will be required to engage with customers to co-create the

service and then involve various functions across the sup-

plier organization to deliver it. Similar outcomes have

also been suggested by Sharma, Iyer, and Evanschitzky

(2008) and by Storbacka, Polsa, and S€a€akj€arvi (2011). Cuevas (2018) suggested that sales forces need to become

more aligned and in some cases integrated with R&D,

operations, and supply chain functions, but the process is

not clear. When we presented some of the findings from

this work to the practitioners we interviewed, all firms

except for Firms N, R, and T claimed that sales and opera-

tions got together only when they faced ad hoc customer

situations, thus raising the issue of whether interdepart-

mental cohesion is always necessary. This idea to create

ad hoc sales–operations teams was mentioned by Firm P

when faced with very specific, “one-off” requests by cus-

tomers, by Firm S when they had specific customer com-

plaints, and by Firm N when they worked on innovation

projects involving voice-of-customer exercises and mar-

ket-potential exercises for new product planning purposes.

Academic research on the nature of ad hoc sales–opera-

tions teams is limited, but Malshe et al. (2017) focused on

how marketers need to work on both strategic and opera-

tional alignment with their sales counterparts to achieve

their goals. It will be interesting to determine whether the

findings from this research can be duplicated to a sales

and operational team whose key performance indicators

need not be aligned. Another area of potential research

could be to measure the performance of these ad hoc

teams and the antecedents of their success. This is in keep-

ing with the work by Johnson et. al (2018), who focused

on organizations with malleable sales and marketing

teams, which they termed sales and marketing selling

centers (SMSC’s). Failure to resolve intraorganizational

issues could result in failed sales opportunities

(Friend et. al 2014). Future research could extend this

research to apply to sales and operations teams to

understand the antecedents and consequences of failed

sales and operations management collaboration.

Sales/marketing strategy

There is limited research on sales/marketing strategy in

the domain of sales and operations management collabo-

ration except for a few examples (Engelseth and Felzen-

stein 2012; Laanti, Gabrielsson, and Gabrielsson 2007;

Zarpelon Neto, Pereira, and Borchardt 2015). Academic

researchers have suggested two interesting questions: (1)

Should researchers examine sales automation before look-

ing at integration of functions? (2) Are some sales strate-

gies an impediment to better sales and operations

alignment?

Our qualitative research found that a lack of coordina-

tion between sales and operations management has a neg-

ative impact on firm performance. All the companies we

interviewed suggested that for the most part, sales and

operations aligned themselves only when they were faced

with specific situations that necessitated them to work

together. This led to unnecessary friction between the

teams, resulting in increased costs and dissatisfied cus-

tomers. In our second round of qualitative interviews, we

specifically focused on this issue. All the executives we

interviewed felt that while the operations management

strategy was clearly defined in their organizations, the

sales strategy was either not always well defined or was

not adhered too. Clearly, more research is needed in this

area.

Technology/sales-force automation

Barker et al. (2009); Feng, D’Amours, and Beauregard

(2013); Sharma and Sheth (2010); and Zackariasson and

Wilson (2004) have addressed the area of technology/

sales-force automation in the domain of sales and opera-

tions management collaboration, but much work remains

to be done. The topic of how technology could impact

sales operation alignment has generated some interest by

academics as they start examining the impact of how

advances in technology could facilitate better communica-

tion between sales and operations and how new technolo-

gies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning

could help sales organizations better manage their rela-

tionship with operations (Syam and Sharma 2018). While

academic literature on these topics still remains limited,

there seems to be an emerging stream of literature that

addresses some of the issues mentioned.

In our qualitative studies, we found that our first set of

interviews did not discuss technology/sales-force automa-

tion although investments in technology to enhance col-

laboration between sales and operations management

were highlighted. Interestingly, when this topic was pre-

sented to the second set of qualitative studies we

Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management 235

conducted, two of the companies in the new sample, Firm

L and Firm O, indicated that their firms were combining

the reports/data from their sales reports (through

sales-force automation systems) and from their enterprise

resource planning (ERP) systems to help generate action-

able insights to help better forecast demand for their offer-

ings. This analysis was the responsibility of a separate

business analytics unit that helped both sales and opera-

tions departments better manage their forecasting. Setting

up a separate department to help sales and operations is

not an option that other firms were considering as they felt

that this would give rise to unnecessary complications and

may lead to either lost opportunities with customers or

dissatisfied customers (Firms K, N, S, and T). This is in

keeping with work by Virtanen et al. (2015), who sug-

gested that cross-business collaboration does not always

lead to better sales performance, owing to the possibility

of an overload of information from multiple internal sour-

ces that cannot be processed by customers.

Interestingly, Balboni and Terho (2016) suggested that

most research in business-to-business marketing has

ignored taking into account salesperson analysis of cus-

tomer potential and instead has only focused on internal-

driven, historical data that do not always apply in many

business-to-business settings. Building on this, we think

that sales-force automation technologies can help capture

salespeople’s analysis of their customers, and this com-

bined with the historical data (usually captured in internal

ERP systems) can lead to better cooperation between sales

and operations management.

Sales evaluation and performance

There is limited academic research on sales evaluation

and performance in the domain of sales and operations

management collaboration. Studies by Chen, Lai, and

Xiao (2015), Feng, D’Amours, and Beauregard (2008),

Lee and Grewal (2004), and Storbacka (2011) are the few

exceptions, and we think that future research should focus

on this area. Research suggests that the role of the sales-

person should be similar to that of a general manager with

supply chain responsibilities (Sheth and Sharma 2008).

Our survey of academic researchers yielded some interest-

ing research questions: Do contradicting objectives (e.g.,

sales focusing on high service levels and operations on

inventory reduction) increase the tension between differ-

ent departments? What performance metrics should be

used to compensate inside and outside salespeople equi-

tably? Should salespeople be subject to a 360-degree eval-

uation that includes peers from other departments?

Our qualitative research suggests that most firms were

changing the evaluation of salespeople from revenue/prof-

its to include operations management measures. Firm X

for example was looking into linking an operations

department KPI of QOTIF (quality on time in full) to the

sales function, owing to the reliance of the operations

department on the forecasting accuracy of salespeople.

However, the sales organization was not very happy with

this evolution. A similar approach was being taken at firm

N, a financial services company, where they were taking

an innovative approach to ensure the success of new prod-

uct development and commercialization. In this organiza-

tion, both the sales and operations department were held

jointly responsible to ensure successful new product

development and commercial launch.

Another area of possible research involves the differ-

ent expectations of salespeople regarding their roles in

customer delivery. For example, Davies, Ryals, and Holt

(2010) suggested that as the roles of salespeople evolve

more to become relationship managers, salespeople

should be expected to forge better internal relationships to

ensure operational delivery and keep an efficient supply

chain (Harvey et al. 2002; Homburg, Workman, and Jen-

sen 2000, 2002). This is in keeping with the research by

Nijssen et al. (2017), who suggest that salespeople who

are ambidextrous should focus on cross-functional coop-

eration if they need to be successful. The next stage of

research would be examining sales evaluations and

performance.

Forecasting

Our qualitative reviews indicate the need for better fore-

casting and how companies were trying to address this

area. Academic research has also addressed the issues of

better forecasting in the domain of sales and operations

management collaboration (Cooper and Budd 2007; Doer-

ing and Suresh 2016; Feng, D’Amours, and Beauregard

2013; Ivert et al. 2015; Oliva and Watson 2011; Zarpelon

Neto, Pereira, and Borchardt 2015). One of the issues that

researchers wrestle with is the inaccuracy of salespeople’s

predictions (Lambert, Marmorstein and Sharma 1990).

Academic researchers from our online survey suggested

the following areas for future research: how digital data

can inform forecasting – seasonality/fluctuation of

demand; what the antecedents and consequences of

enhanced forecasting accuracy are; and how one can fore-

cast sales using buyers’ browsing patterns.

A review of the literature in operations research iden-

tified an increasing focus on understanding how advances

in technology has enabled firms to capture data about cus-

tomers that are stored in CRM databases or in operations

databases (Fildes et al. 2008) to help drive forecasting

accuracy. Syam and Sharma (2018) highlighted key ways

in which developments in AI and machine learning can

help organizations better manage their demand estimation

and forecasting. However, extant research outlines a silo-

oriented approach used by researchers in the sales domain

and the operations domain separately. Fildes et al. (2008)

pointed out that while operations researchers have focused

236 D. Rangarajan et al.

on models to manage inventories and the impact of shar-

ing forecast implications down the supply chain, research-

ers in marketing/sales have used data to aid in forecasting

of sales (Syam and Sharma 2018). Future research should

focus on combining the sources of data from CRM and

ERP systems to help both sales- and operations-related

outcomes. Our qualitative studies did not shed light on

this area although most executives suggested that firms

need forecasts that are more accurate. This area, therefore,

remains an area of further research.

Conclusion

There is rapid growth inmodern sales techniques, and strate-

gies such as consultative selling, solution selling, and chal-

lenger sales have emerged. The common element in all of

these strategies is the role that operations management plays

in fulfilling the needs of customers in terms of integrating

products and services. Since solution selling and challenger

sales have not been universally successful, one possible rea-

son for the lack of success may be the lack of collaboration

between sales and operations management. As stated earlier,

operations management is typically focused on lean opera-

tions and efficiency, and providing customized solutions for

customers has not been a priority. The negative effect of the

lack of collaboration between sales and operations manage-

ment was a key finding from extant research as well as the

feedback from senior executives in firms.

To determine how sales teams and operations manage-

ment teams should work together to ensure delivery of a

firm’s offerings, we conducted a deeper examination of

this area. We undertook three research projects. First, we

undertook qualitative research in two stages by conduct-

ing in-depth interviews with senior executives in 10 firms

on sales and operations management collaboration. The

primary finding was that close cooperation between

sales and operations management is critical for the suc-

cess of firms. Lack of collaboration leads to revenue

loss and harms customer relationships. The interviews

also suggested that other functional team involvement –

collaborative environment, internally and externally; goal

alignment; organizational culture; and top-management

involvement – positively affected sales and operational

management collaboration. We also found that managers

supported the five subareas where research is needed –

intraorganizational issues, sales/marketing strategy, tech-

nology/sales-force automation, sales evaluation and per-

formance, and forecasting.

The second research project was an in-depth review

of the research and literature on the interface of sales

and operations management. Surprisingly, we found only

12 articles that addressed both sales and operations man-

agement functions. We identified common themes in the

research. These were criticality of sales and operations

management collaboration in the success of a firm;

sales and operations management alignment can reduce

negative effects; sales and operations management align-

ment can enhance positive effects; internal business rela-

tionships are critical in enhancing interactions between

sales and operations management; and what processes

can improve sales and operations management

collaboration.

Third, we conducted a survey of academic researchers in

the area to identify areas and themes of future research in

this area. Using the Plouffe, Williams, and Wachner (2008)

categorization, respondents suggested that technology/

sales-force automation, forecasting, sales evaluation and

performance, intraorganizational issues, and sales/market-

ing strategy are the most important areas of study in the

domain of sales and operations management. The respond-

ents also suggested some research questions. While the

response rate was low, by analyzing and finding few differ-

ences between early and late respondents, we feel that the

right areas were identified. We then presented these gaps to

a set of executives to gain their insights into the relevance of

these gaps to practice.

Finally, we combined findings and identified our

results as well as the direction for future research. There

are also interesting new approaches to research and we

would suggest examining longitudinal modeling

(Bolander, Dugan, and Jones 2017). For instance, one of

the examples proposed by Bolander, Dugan, and Jones

(2017) can be modified to ask: What specific salesperson

behaviors increase sales–operation management coopera-

tion? We hope that this article will serve as an impetus for

further research in this critical area.

Declaration of interest

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

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