How Manufacturers Improve Sales and Operations Planning 

Many manufacturers discover that their most significant competitive advantage is their sales and operations planning department. 

Sales and operations planning (S&OP) is an executive management process where real-time sales data leads to increasingly accurate financial forecasts, production plans, inventory, supply chains, etc. Each element continually informs the other. 

Previously, sales teams manually adjusted quarterly plans to meet long-term forecasts over 18-36 months. Now, cloud-based, real-time data automates much of this process with the right tools. 

This data allows the company to nimbly respond to complex challenges, including the need to innovate continuously, design, train personnel, and respond to changing market conditions while maintaining current manufacturing production.

It is a classic example of fixing an airplane while still flying.

In this blog post, discover how manufacturers can improve sales and operations planning and learn about Next Quarter’s Pipeline Acceleration solution for more successful sales operations

Sales and Operations Planning Technology

To make the most of S&OP, all data needs to be adjusted in real-time. There are various Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms that can help.

Because this process starts with sales data forecasts, technology like Next Quarter’s Pipeline Acceleration solution, which runs on Salesforce, instantly turns this complex process into dynamic reports, forecasts, and dashboards. As a result, you get a clearer path to sales and faster growth. 

This type of S&OP software streamlines a labor-intensive process so manufacturers can adjust their sales and operations planning to shorter-term objectives. The Pipeline Acceleration solution, for example, uses predictive analytics to scan sales and conversation data, helping you develop better forecasts, identify key trends, and close deals in a quicker time frame. Use it to solve the challenges associated with manufacturing sales operations.

How Manufacturers Can Up Their Digital Sales Game

An image of a manufacturing facility. Manufacturers can significantly improve S&OP with a complete digital presence.

A complete digital presence (website, social media, ads, etc.) will allow your targeted prospects to:

  • Consider you a competitor in the marketplace. (Top of the sales funnel, awareness phase, basic research.)
  • Understand the breadth of your offerings through marketing materials on your website, including:
    1. Online training and courses
    2. Webinars
    3. Case studies
    4. Guides and glossaries
    5. Frequently-asked-questions
    6. Video tutorials
    7. Forums
  • Get detailed product catalog information (such as datasheets) about your products and services. Posting features or service comparison charts versus top competitors is vital. (Discovery phase of the sales funnel.)
  • Move your sales operations to the cloud. This will only work for some types of manufacturers. You can use the following online sales tools to see which product configurations are most popular with visitors to your site (which may be different from actual buyers):
    1. Online Product Configurators: Like many B2C eCommerce sales tools that allow retail customers to configure various options, online product configurators generate invaluable B2B sales information for manufacturers. Even if your customers can’t make their purchase on the platform, getting detailed information about what a customer wants can shorten your sales team’s closing times. Information about the most popular product configurations can inform manufacturing decisions. 
    2. Automated Internal Quote Generators: For manufacturers, the sales process starts with a request for quote (RFQ), request for information (RFI), or other bids. Creating an automated “Configure, Price, and Quote” (CPQ) system can streamline and standardize deals made by salespeople in various locations. In addition, it feeds your sales forecasting system accurate data about discounts, standard order sizes, and high-demand features. This detailed view of customer desires allows manufacturers to make planning and supply chain decisions confidently.
    3. Integrated sales forecasting, revenue forecasting, and manufacturing demand planning software: To make your entire pipeline visible to manufacturing, you need to have sales, revenue, and demand forecasting tools that talk with each other effortlessly in real-time. Next Quarter’s Pipeline Acceleration solution does precisely that. By integrating with Salesforce, your entire team, from the factory floor to the executive suite, will access the relevant real-time sales and conversation data needed to make decisions about sales operations. Better sales forecasting begins with Next Quarter.

How Manufacturers Can Achieve Sales and Operations Planning Excellence

B2B manufacturers need to sell to six-to-10 decision-makers. Selling to these clients requires a high level of skill because you aren’t just selling a product, you are selling your company, processes, product quality, and the level of support you bring after the sale. 

Sales teams need to get buy-in from many stakeholders, some of whom are on the org chart; many of whom are not. You need to have X-ray vision to see the hidden influencers. You are selling the item and its ecosystem—a complex web of purchases around the big purchase. Therefore, you need to craft a support system of deals, configurations, and sales pipeline stages that satisfy various conflicting interests in the prospect company. 

Next Quarter has another solution to help you with this process. Account Growth improves account planning by letting you see inside your target company and find all the hidden decision-makers and influencers. This AI-based solution identifies new opportunities, supercharges your accounts, and suggests actionable steps for sales reps. You can use Account Growth alongside Pipeline Acceleration, like many Fortune 500 companies do, to feel more confident when making data-driven decisions in your organization. 

Use White Space Analysis To Reveal Pockets of Growth

To close manufacturing deals where other companies haven’t, you need to sell where those companies aren’t selling. That’s where white space analysis comes in. Instead of finding the usual suspects, white space analysis helps you understand the hidden prospects that fit the same profile as your main prospects. 

Using Next Quarter’s Account Growth, you can benefit from built-in artificial intelligence (AI) and find geographic, vertical, and ancillary sales opportunities you haven’t seen before. 

How Next Quarter Improves S&OP

Next Quarter is the world’s first AI-based account planning solution. Built by a former CFO and CRO, the Salesforce-native platform can improve forecast models by more than 97 percent and seamlessly connect sales and finance teams in your manufacturing organization. Next Quarter provides real-time accuracy of your data every minute of the day and provides a single source of truth that makes S&OP more successful. 

The Pipeline Acceleration solution is available as a feature bundle in the Next Quarter platform. It solves many of the challenges associated with sales operations by providing greater visibility into supply chains, predictability, and forecasting. By aligning people and processes with this technology, you can improve productivity and profitability across your organization.

Use Pipeline Acceleration alongside Account Growth to combine sales forecasting and account planning and get even better results. Depending on your specific requirements, you can toggle these feature bundles on and off in the Next Quarter platform.

Next Quarter’s Pipeline Acceleration solution (and other feature bundles) can help you revolutionize sales and operations planning for your manufacturing firm. Schedule a demo today.

“Welcome, ForecastEra has been rebranded to Next Quarter. We’re so excited you’re here.”