The main area of focus in sales and operations planning (S&OP) is sales force enablement and workflow improvement. They have to be executed without disturbing the processes that deliver relevant information to the right people at the right time. Insights about emerging challenges should also keep coming as new plans are executed. The process cannot afford to lose focus on customer segmentation and sales resource optimization at the same time. Beyond their KPIs, S&OP personnel have to generate sales reports, manage administrative programs, and keep their CRM platforms relevant. Such a gamut of tasks is the least one must cover to make an impact as a strategic partner.
A List of the Challenges in S&OP:
- Handling too many responsibilities: S&OP has to handle many tasks such as analyzing sales performance, automating and managing sales force, evaluating and designing sales force strategies, and providing technical support for sales functionalities and tools. This wide range of tasks can become overwhelming and challenging for S&OP teams.
- Keeping pace with technology: Owing to dynamic results of marketing automation and predictive marketing analytics tools, sales ops need to constantly monitor and re-evaluate their strategies to stay in competition. The alignment of sales with departments such as finance, marketing, customer success is necessary to enable an all-integrated and well-connected business platform. Absence of such platforms can be taxing for S&OP personnel.
- Handling ad-hoc requests: The process includes supporting and managing the sales force and corresponding requirements. Hence, without proper planning of resources, it becomes impossible to track and modify processes based on ad-hoc requests. It’s difficult to maintain a perpetual and predictable workflow in a dynamic work environment, where sales strategies and technologies are in flux.
Those are some obstacles that a typical S&OP process faces, apart from other problems such as inadequate workforce management and lack of streamlined operations. However, with technological intervention and mechanization, some companies uniquely position their S&OP teams to support the sales process, identify the issues, and perpetrate the solutions. Here are a few aspects of that approach:
- Data management: With the help of a centralized and automated database, S&OP processes can examine and select data from which they can roll out accurate reports to help analyze and suggest the future course of actions.
- Reporting & administration: Raw and inaccurate data can hamper the S&OP team’s progress. Hence, efficient processes and accurate reports and dashboards can provide timely help to the decision makers to scrutinize and respond to market challenges, and thereby drive market revenue.
- Pricing support: S&OP should empower the sales team to be provided with high-quality proposals that can have a quick turnaround time and high efficiency too. Besides positioning the contract competitively, it should fulfill both, company and customer motives and help establish mutual value.
- Analytics and business insights: Sales can make use of data by carefully analyzing it and deriving decisive conclusions. It may be for customer receptiveness to certain products or best practices of supply chain management. Instead of guessing, sales leaders must formulate their decisions based on available facts and figures.
- Robust platforms: To add value to the sales team, S&OP processes should have a sound, integrated, and cost-effective system, so that it can benefit the sales team in a scalable and flexible manner.
- Lead generation and management: With sales teams finding most of the generated leads useless, and marketers insisting that they have fulfilled their targets of lead generation, it is easy to assume that there is a big gap. The sales and operations function can make generating, capturing, and following up on leads a seamless, cost-effective, and collaborative process.
- Inventory and Procurement: An automated inventory and procurement system enhances operations by streamlining inventory control and supply chain management and reducing errors, labor costs, and waste.
Many applications and analytics platforms continue to remain vital to the S&OP process. Companies can utilize them for greater sales force effectiveness, and thereby accomplish profitable growth to surpass industry expectations.