How to sell S&OP to Sales (and everyone else)

Richard Evans

Ever heard the story of the American man who mistakenly bought London Bridge, thinking he was buying Tower Bridge (the pretty one)?

By Richard Evans

Rumour has it he bought it, brick for brick, to have as an attraction in the US. Now apparently there’s a fair amount of artistic licence in the tale, but it paints a nice picture of buyer’s remorse and how sometimes you shouldn’t believe everything you hear. And why not being believed when you’re selling something is quite a common occurrence. In fact, it’s been proven that when someone knows they’re being sold to, they’re less likely to believe the person doing the flogging. Whether that’s a bridge or a sandwich. So let’s talk about selling a smoother process to your sales department. Namely S&OP. Guaranteeing that their customer’s orders are always delivered on time, in full, exactly as promised, is something they’d want. But not necessarily something they’ll believe you can deliver. Why? Because it’s hard to define what a smoother process is. Day in, day out, they sell on your behalf. So when you bounce over with a fantastic, shiny idea to increase their output with something called S&OP, it’s likely they might not fall head over heels. So how can you change that?

Set up S&OP correctly, and everyone wins

Sales are both one of the main beneficiaries to S&OP and one of the key parties required to make it work. So giving them the insight into its inner workings should be on your agenda, before you try and alter the process. A little like showing someone a picture, or use case of the bridge they’re about to buy. Or maybe a sample from the sandwich menu. In most companies the sales team’s the voice of the customer. They know them inside out, why they buy and why they don’t. And they’ll provide the richest insights on how your customers tick. But asking the sales team to worry about anything other than the sale is a big ask. And that may be why it’s hard to convince a sales team that the fruits of doing S&OP are worth their time, energy and effort. S&OP requires a culture change. And therefore there needs to be a degree of trust that the juice is worth the squeeze.

How to hit a home run with your sales dept

The pitch:
No one likes a curve-ball. And it’s hard to sell anything in life if you don’t set realistic expectations. So that’s the first place to start in this scenario. There are examples of where S&OP has delivered massive results. But they’ve not come easily. From day one, the goals, deliverables and anticipated results have to be realistic. If you storm on to the sales floor and promise to double their numbers, and therefore commission, with just a small altering of process, eyebrows will rise before hopes.

Getting to first base:
Make a list of stakeholders in the implementation of your S&OP process and ensure you have a strategy for managing them. You need to be clear about what’s required from each employee and department to deliver S&OP effectively. Especially Sales, given their importance to the process. The reality is, an S&OP process requires effort and input from all corners. Be open about this from the onset or you’ll strike out before you’ve swung.

Don’t swing for every ball:
In business bingo, we’d call this focusing on the ‘low hanging fruit’. Or simply making sure you’re starting with the simplest and quickest wins. If you start with the most complicated or worst performing business areas, you’re highly likely to face an uphill battle. So start with the simplest. Make an impact. Show the results and then roll out to other areas once people have started to trust you, and the process a little.

Don’t be afraid of a moneyball approach:
Providing robust data is a must. But don’t hang your hat on it. Businesses these days have more data than ever before. And everyone has a dashboard. But that doesn’t mean you need it all. Good data can help build trust. But the context, the processes and how this data is used is what makes the difference. Focus on the data that matters and ignore that which doesn’t.

Mindset wins more often than not:
Ever noticed how the top sports stars in the world have the best mindset? So do the world’s best sales teams. Many businesses are comfortable with being reactive. But S&OP is challenging as it requires people to think on a much broader horizon. Not just in terms of time, but how their actions impact the wider business. You need to move away from silos. Help your people get out of the hamster wheel. Build in time to educate people about the wider company. It’s imperative they understand the business they’re part of and not just their department. And if you can do this, you’ll hit home runs more often than not and win the world series. Or, beat whatever competition you’re currently up against.

Webinar Wednesday March 16

Supply Chain Media and Slimstock are organizing a webinar about S&OP, on Wednesday 16th March 2022 starting at 16:00 hrs CET. Learn everything about S&OP from speaker Richard Evans, Managing Director for Slimstock UK & Nordics.

Register here >>