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A specialist provider of technically sophisticated products for the pharmaceutical industry, with approx. 650 employees, was looking for a Head of International Sales. In my role as an interim manager, I was tasked with leading both the Sales and Sales Controlling departments.

The European sales operation of the firm, which itself is part of a multinational organisation, was highly profitable. Due to consolidation in the pharmaceutical sector, however, the division was no longer as focused on customers as it needed to be. The distribution of customers within the Key Account Management function was no longer balanced, neither geographically nor in terms of personnel. While Sales Controlling did provide figures for the purpose of internal reporting, it was not yet managing the sales operation. I was therefore tasked with realigning the Sales department both strategically and operationally – and incorporating Sales Controlling as a coordinating unit.

Regular sales meetings – restructuring of key accounts

In a first step towards aligning international sales, I instituted a regular sales meeting, which enhanced communication among colleagues scattered across different countries. The meetings also enabled a more personalised style of team leadership.

During an analysis of the customers’ profiles and geographical locations in relation to their allocation to the Key Account Managers within the team, it became apparent that a shake-up was required. I drew up a plan to restructure assignments to major customers within the team. As such, a new employee was inducted in Italy, one new employee each was hired in France and Russia, and one employee was let go in the UK. Customers responded in a positive and satisfied way.

Much greater motivation for the sales team through proactive leadership

The restructuring was boosted by plenty of goodwill within the team. The proactive and appreciative leadership style was a new experience for the Key Account team and resulted in significant motivation.

Structured processes and interfaces in Sales Management

For the Sales Controlling department, I developed a clearly structured system of processes and internal interfaces. I was also entrusted with the task of providing much greater support for the sales process. The new processes simplified the job of drafting standardised quotes across the board. They also enabled the individual Key Account Managers to focus on their work and set priorities when consulting with their customers.

Another aspect of the improved collaboration was that Sales Controlling was regularly involved in the sales meetings, with the more factual basis also making it easier to lead the team. I was also instrumental in ensuring that more attention was paid to soft skills in terms of the disciplinary sales leadership of the individual Key Account Managers.

The project in brief

  • International sales and sales controlling (pharma)
  • Regular sales meetings – restructuring of key accounts
  • Much greater motivation for the sales team through proactive leadership
  • Structured processes and interfaces in sales controlling
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