An examination of sales and marketing collaboration in a Western-headquartered Chinese subsidiary
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 10:36 authored by Hedy Ho
Previous research has variously argued that the Marketing and Sales functions within an organisation are ‘at war’ with each other (Kotler et al. 2006), or that the relationship between the two is healthy (Dawes & Massey 2005). However, there is general agreement that collaboration between Sales and Marketing is important for organisational effectiveness (e.g. Le Meunier-FitzHugh & Piercy 2011; Matthyssens & Johnston 2006). Nearly all research into Sales/Marketing collaboration (SMC) has been conducted in Western cultures (e.g. Dawes & Massey 2006; Troilo et al. 2009). However, cultural characteristics, such as avoidance of conflict, mean that SMC may be very different in organisations located in non-Western environments. Understanding how Sales and Marketing collaboration might vary in such environments is particularly important for Western multinational corporations, which will be influenced by the culture of their headquarters, and also by the national culture of the location of any subsidiary. Given the growing importance of the Chinese economy, and the increasing number of multinationals establishing subsidiaries in China, understanding the interaction between the headquarters and local cultures, and any association with SMC, is particularly important. As a result, this thesis investigates SMC within the Chinese subsidiary of a major American-headquartered multinational corporation. The research involved interviews with 20 organisational employees, including those from both Sales and Marketing, some with experience working in both functions, at management and non-managerial levels, with native Chinese or Western backgrounds, and Chinese and Western employees with work experience outside their home countries. Though small, the sample thus represents the most diverse group of participants of any study of SMC and the first examining SMC in China. In contrast with the diverse characterisation of SMC by previous authors as either poor or good, the interviewees revealed a variety of views on the level of SMC within the organisation. As a result, characterising SMC within this subsidiary as either good or poor would over-simplify the diversity of views within the organisation. All, however, agreed that SMC, in theory, is beneficial for the organisation, though different interviewees identified different potential benefits. There was also disagreement on the drivers of and barriers to SMC between Sales and Marketing staff, between managerial and non-managerial staff, and between Western and Chinese employees. Given the wide diversity of views expressed by interviewees, there are no easy answers for how multinationals operating in China can use SMC to increase organisational effectiveness. However, the results suggest that an emphasis on increasing behaviours directly linked to organisational effectiveness (such as encouraging Chinese employees to challenge ideas when appropriate), may be more effective and efficient than emphasis on a goal of increasing SMC, since that goal clearly means different things to different people. Understanding the interplay between SMC and organisational and national cultures will become increasingly important for multinationals as more Western businesses start operating in China, and as Chinese businesses establish operations in Western countries. While this study reports only on SMC within a single multinational, the results suggest that further research within foreign subsidiaries will be increasingly important for organisations to maximise the effectiveness of their Sales and Marketing functions.