Maximizing sales and profits requires a company to optimize its inventory. Inventory optimization requires good forecasting. In order to be successful, forecasting must be a collaborative effort between all areas of a company. An extremely important relationship in the forecasting process is that relationship between the salespeople and the demand planners.
THE PLANNING PROCESS
The Planning Process must be a collaborative process involving Management and all other areas of the company. Company goals must be shared with all departments, then broken down into specific KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for all individual departments. It is imperative that all areas can see the Big Picture and know how their department contributes to it. Only then, can they take ownership of the process of achieving their goals.
SAME TEAM, SAME GOAL
Both the Sales Team and the Demand Planners have the same ultimate goal: to maximize sales and profitability. By establishing a partnership focused on accomplishing these goals early in the Planning Process, better forecasts can be created.
SALES VS. DEMAND PLANNING?
The relationship between Sales and Demand Planning is often viewed as competitive. Sales is often blamed for under-forecasting their sales in an effort to beat their quota. Planning is blamed if there isn’t sufficient inventory to fulfill customer orders. However, this competitive mindset is detrimental to achieving the goals of both Sales and Planning. Instead, transparency, understanding and collaboration are needed to develop a partnership. The Demand Planners provide the historical data while Sales should provide input based on the changing Marketplace.
HOW CAN SALES AND PLANNING WORK TOGETHER?
When beginning the forecasting process, it is important for the Planning Team to make the Process easy for the Sales Team. The Sales team is constantly under pressure to sell and do not want to waste time that could be spent selling. The Process should be defined, with the Sales Team knowing what is expected of them. The information needed from the Sales Team should be defined and communicated ahead of time, so Sales can be prepared to provide the information needed about their Customers.
Some of the types of information that are helpful to create good forecasts include:
- Promotions the Customer is planning that are new this year, as well as past promotions that are not being repeated
- Customer Assortments/Competition
- Current Inventory On-Hands
- Sales Trends in the Marketplace
- Price Fluctuations in the Marketplace
Once the Demand Planner combines the Salesperson’s Marketplace intelligence with the historical data, the Planning Team can develop forecasts. High level forecasts or product group forecasts should be reviewed with the Sales Team and sign off given.
As Actual data is collected against the Forecasts, the Sales Team should educate the Planning Team on any anomalies that have occurred, so the Planner can take this information into consideration when projecting future demand. The Sales Team should also provide information on other events happening in the Marketplace that could cause forecasts to be off. The Planning Team should make notes of these events and anomalies as a reminder when planning for the future, both the immediate future and long-term.
Forecasts should be revisited and updated regularly, taking both historical data and Marketplace insight into consideration.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR THE SALESPERSON?
The relationship between the Salesperson and the Demand Planner should be beneficial to the Salesperson too. The Demand Planner will be able to provide the Salesperson with insight into emerging sales trends, giving them a jump on the competition. The Planner can also ask the Salesperson what types of information would be beneficial to them and then provide that information in the form of reports or graphs, enabling the Salesperson to be more efficient. By communicating and working together as allies, Sales can be assured that there is enough Production planned to achieve Sales Goals.
A WIN-WIN FOR ALL
When the Sales Department and Planning work together as allies, their goals of fulfilling customer orders and increasing sales and profitability can be achieved with more efficiency and accuracy.
For more information about how forecasting can help your business achieve its Key Performance Indicators, contact the industry experts at SAFIO Solutions.