All quiet on the Bad Front

I confess. I’m a bad guy.

While my colleague Håkan is a really experienced demand planning strategist originating from IKEA and with decades finding the right way of managing supply chain; I’m the one that comes from the Sales Side – the home of the bad boys.

I have always seen “supply chainers” as very clever people that are not only extinguishes fires, but also handles the sophisticated supply chain tools with excellence, the huge data volume, the simulation queries or multi-colored graphs without hesitating what’s right or wrong.

They always have total control over the delivery process, the suppliers, the Capacity. They can predict the future just by one-clicking a button providing my management team solid, fantastic overviews illustrated in gauges and trend diagrams.

They are telling the truth. They have the facts. They know the way things have to be done.

The supply chain people are, honestly, the good guys.

Well.

It’s not strange they become angry when the bad guy comes into the picture saying he neither sells the red truck that was planned, nor the green one. But he will sell twenty more mountain bikes every week, even if the plan was only five.

Maybe he will sell the mountain bikes, it depends. It should happen next week or next month, the probability is 99%. Which is changing to 10% just a few days after the original clear statement of 99%…

You’re getting it. It’s like planning for a ride to the moon, but the people that will drive the starship only have driver’s license for a Volvo.

Like Håkan said, if you don’t have the people onboard, there is no sense planning the details. In many ways, I can say the sales people don’t have a clue what the supply chain are planning. They are definitely not onboard. Why?

Let me introduce the Bad Side.

Of course a sales rep has goals, even in detail. It can be like this:

–        One red truck per week

–        Two green ones per week

–        Five mountain bikes per week

But the goals seldom control that this will happen. Sales people still go for opportunities they love, not the one that follows the demand plan and they are in most cases measured by revenue alone, doesn’t matter what they sell. And they often get more appreciation when they exceed their goals rather than meeting the goals on target, even if the supply chain then has to re-invent their selves to manage the increase of a product or business area volume.

Sure, many enterprises today have a sales process, with checkboxes to complete, just to be sure they go for the right opportunities and to predict the sales pipeline volume. However, very few companies have the communication to supply chain in place, in order to match sales pipeline to the demand plan and vice versa; to get input from supply chain to the sales organization.

By this lack of steering, it’s not surprising they are not “in sync” with supply chain people’s sophisticated plans – the plans are not in the same language!

The sales guys often tell they cannot sell that or that; the market is changing, the competition is harder than expected and so on. Well, that can be true. But it shouldn’t be a surprise when it comes to September or October – it really should be discussed from Day One! It’s much easier to catch up small deviations in February or March, when the alarm noise only is a whispering sound, than the ear-blowing whistle later on.

So, some advices:

  1. Create an action plan that tells the sales rep what to sell and when
  2. A sales process that secures actions will be done in the right order
  3. Translate the demand plan into sales language
  4. Consider not to start sales processes that wouldn’t be finished within the time frame of your goals

Keep up communicating and try to be as good guys you can, Sales people!

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