Qiagen has sales teams in France, Germany, and the United States, each of which had its own data-base and spreadsheet systems for tracking customers, even though those systems held most of the same information.
The business culture and traditions of each country also affect how data is collected. In Germany, a sales associate often meets with prospective customers away from the office, with the associate writing down details from the conversation. U.S. sales contacts are often less-structured discussions, and the associates are less likely to takes notes. All sides had to agree to gather some common information they could enter into the sales system. "People in different countries have different cultures and ways of thinking," Duong says.
Duong won over the worldwide staff by finding a vendor that lets them localize the policy decisions they considered most important. For example, each country can set different price levels at which the sales staff needs management authorization to offer a quote.
But there was resistance from smaller subsidiaries in France and the United Kingdom that didn't see the need to configure the software with the complex business-process changes that the U.S. operation, which accounts for about 55% of sales, wanted.
What carried the debate was a customer focus: Buyers are often global, so being able to see their purchasing around the world meant better use of sales staff and a clearer gauge of customers' future needs. Says Duong, "We started talking about customer needs and were able to come to consensus."