AmerisourceBergen saves with automated sales info

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AmerisourceBergen, a large pharmaceuticals distributor, faced a classic marketing conundrum as it worked to finalize the merger of its predecessors, AmeriSource Health and Bergen Brunswig. Although the deal was struck in 2001, much of the two companies' infrastructure remained distinct until 2005, including separate marketing departments, sales forces and customers.

The Chesterbook, Pa.-based combined company needed to function more like a single entity. This was particularly true of its marketing messaging to the hospitals, alternative care facilities and independent pharmacies that make up its customer base. It also needed a better way for its salespeople to access marketing materials and to customize presentations.

"We had no easy means of reaching everyone with a consistent message," said Sean Markey, VP-business operations. "Plus, we had been using storage houses for all our marketing material; salespeople would make a request and the material would be [shipped automatically]. But we'd find later it was just sitting in salespeople's basements."

The company turned to Savo Group, maker of an automated message management tool called Sales Asset Manager (SAM). AmerisourceBergen also refined its message content with the help of a consultancy, CMM Group, as well as extensive feedback from sales. The result? The pharmaceuticals company created a SAM-driven interactive portal on its intranet.

By inputting a variety of information about the customer and the selling situation, including customer size, industry, solutions, competitive analysis and stage of the sales cycle, sales reps could customize presentation slides, brochures, proposals, e-mail, follow-up letters and other forms of client communication.

"It's true situational selling," said Markey. "And it's cool how it saves tons of time, not having to mill through a myriad of collateral or making your own sales pieces."

AmerisourceBergen has a solid handle on the return on investment of its new system, which it calls eSales, commissioning an analysis from Nucleus Research. With software and personnel costs running about $162,000 a year, Nucleus determined that the new system boasts an annual ROI of 140%, based on improved employee productivity. Salespeople spend "significantly less time" developing their own presentations and proposals, allowing more face time with customers, according to the Nucleus study.

Further, sales growth is extremely robust for a huge company. Third-quarter revenue was a record $14.4 billion, up 15% from last year's quarter, while nine-month revenue hit $42 billion, up 13%. The company expects sales for fiscal 2006, which ended Sept. 30, to total more than $59 million.

"When I go out to the regions for business reviews and updates, and ask what's working, what's always working is eSales," Markey said. "We continue to work on refinements, but to me this is a success that goes beyond success."

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