Improving performance, how do I start?

All companies, apart from those just starting out, are in midstream. You have a budget and a result, maybe things are not going as you would have liked, maybe you need to way your options, you need to look at your possible scenarios. This is not easy to manage. Do you really have all the pieces of history that you need to judge what has happened? Do you know what the real problem is? It could be low turnover, or poor margin, bad product mix, poor delivery performance, quality issues, unutilized capacities in production, unstructured work process; and so on…the list is endless. You cannot deal with all of them.

You need to find a starting point and I believe that you should start at the customer end and work yourself down the processes until you reach the end of the chain. Like locking a zip lock bag, if you try and close it by pushing the two sides together in the middle you can’t get it tight, but if you lock it in one end and pull your finger along the bag it zips tight on one attempt. I wish it was this simple in business, but by starting in the right end it at least becomes possible.

Use the SalesScenario tool (iPhone/iPad or Web) to see if your sales force is in balance with your sales goals (HOW are you capable to sell according to your plan), check your product mix (WHAT are you Selling, is this according plan, is the gross margin mix correct), what’s in the pipeline for the future, what’s in the production pipeline, what’s the back-log, what’s the capacity utilization, what’s the scrapping ratio, what’s the delivery performance and finally, what’s the feed-back from the customers?  Once you looked at this you should know:

  • Is my sales force correctly dimensioned?
  • Is my sales force focusing on the right tasks (creating leads, making calls, meeting potential clients, sending quotes, closing deals, reconnecting with current clients to expand offer)?
  • Is my sales force selling the planned mix of items?
  • Are there any unexpected developments in sales in the future?
  • Is my production performing well?
  • Is there unutilized or over utilized capacities I need to act on?
  • Are there quality issues I need to act on?
  • Are we delivering on time, do I need to prioritise among planned shippments?
  • Do I need to adress any customer issues?

Once you have identified what is wrong you need to find a way to make it right. Short term you will need to find tactic that will move you in the right direction, your options are probably few. Long term is whole other story, Stefan and I have blogged about the key factors you need, and we will keep blogging on this topic. To summarize what we have said so far:

  1. Make sure you have a sales strategy that supports you sales team and keep them on track.
  2. Make sure you have “One Plan” as a means to have a common platform creating a translator for communicating between sales and supply chain.
  3. Go for an S&OP approach. It is all about making “it” happen together, the supply chain makes “it” possible; sales make “it” happen; two roles, one objective.
  4. Understand what the core elements of Demand Planning are.
  5. Forecasts are needed to connect sales with production; it is a tool to communicate a lower level goal not merely a number.
  6. Make sure that you steer the process in a way that you manage all levels; strategic, tactical and operational.  It has to be kept together at the same time as you need to ensure that lower levels have the possibility to change and adapt to customer behavior.
  7. Learn how to navigate your business, KPI’s and OPI’s help you see where you have been and what will happen.
  8. In order to make this all happen you need an implementation strategy, you need an understanding of change management, to keep your staff focused on the right things and avoid misunderstanding. This saves time and energy.

Stefan and I believe so strongly that we can make a difference for companies that we decided to take this path and make sales the leading process, we believe in it so strongly that we started a new company that has this as a mission.  The company’s name is Sales Scenario, because that’s where we will start, in midstream where companies are, in order to find a way to bring our customers down this path of change.

Together, we have many years of experience in how the sales process actually functions and how it should be connected to other units within the organization, especially to Supply Chain. It is not only about selling more; you have to sell right, too. To sell lots of products, which the company has not planned for and secured in stock is devastating for customer relations and can even harm the brand.

The challenge is to separate between how you sell and what you sell. Key is to make the sales unit understand its part in a wider context and create bridges to other units within the company. This is what we decided to become specialists in.

Check us out at


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