The Role of Sales in NPD: An Investigation of the U.S. Health-Care Industry
Date of this version
NEW product development, HEALTH care industry, SALES personnel, MARKETING SALES executives, GROUNDED theory, DATA analysis
The new product development ( NPD) literature emphasizes that the success of new products strongly depends on a firm's capability to understand customer needs and translate them into new products. Because of their close relationships with customers, salespeople are in the ideal position to connect the firm's NPD efforts to its customers. The extant literature on the role of sales in NPD focuses on either sales' contribution to generating new product ideas or the adoption of new products by salespeople, while a systematic study of sales' contribution during all NPD stages is lacking. In addition, the role of sales is typically studied in isolation, while in practice, the role of sales depends on the relationship between sales and marketing.
This article addresses these gaps in the literature by reporting on an empirical investigation of the role of sales during the entire NPD process in the U.S. health-care industry, taking into account the complexities of the sales-marketing dynamic. The article is based on interviews with 21 sales and 15 marketing informants from the U.S. health-care industry, both pharmaceutical firms (selling drugs to physicians) and device manufacturing firms.
Our findings highlight how salespeople are distant from NPD process during the discovery stage. Salespeople are focused on selling to customers, and marketing keeps sales distant from the NPD process. During the development stage, sales is still only indirectly involved in NPD through its relationship with marketing. During commercialization, however, marketing takes the driver's seat and strongly involves sales in the various (pre)launch activities. But while salespeople are mostly indirectly involved in NPD, sales managers have a closer relationship with sales and are more directly involved. The findings also show how the involvement of sales is influenced by characteristics of the health-care industry. Thus, this article contributes to our understanding of the role of sales in NPD by integrating theoretical perspectives from the sales-marketing interface literature into the NPD literature.
Journal of Product Innovation Management