Summer Is Over and Business Planning Is Upon Us

I am writing this on a plane heading home, after spending two weeks in Paris working with young CPG Key Account Managers from across Europe – helping them work through their business plans for 2011. Like back-to-school for children across Canada, the CPG industry kicks into gear in the late summer, building business plans to help them achieve their company’s goals for next year.

One evening while dining with a group of KAMs, someone asked me what advice I would give that would help make business planning more effective for both suppliers and retailers. Below is a quick overview of my thoughts.

Do A Deep Dive – Many business plans that I have seen over the years were built by KAMs that did not properly understand their business strategy, the category dynamics or their retailer’s strategy at the necessary level. This includes KAMs that had been in their role for several years. I suggest working with Category Management and Sales Analysts and literally ripping apart all the data you have to find category development gaps, brand development gaps, distribution opportunities, listing opportunities and more. This is the time of year to know your category better than ever.

Sharpen The Saw – Business planning requires your skills to be sharp. SINS runs Business Planning Workshops that take participants through our nine steps of business planning and apply those new skills in a tailor made case study. There is a reason that athletes play “friendlies” before the big game.

Negotiation is another area where you have to be at the top of your game during the business planning process. In the lounge today, I bumped into my good friend Peter Hiddema who is the CEO of Common Outlook Consulting, and one of Canada’s best negotiation trainers. Check out his article titled “Top Five Sales Negotiations Mistakes” for some great tips.

Focus On The Common Ground – A KAMs job is to fully understand the strategy of his business and that of the retailer and to identify where the two strategies overlap, creating common ground where you can both drive profitable and sustainable growth. Too many times I have seen impressive plans fail because they were built on shaky ground and were not in the best interests of both the supplier and retailer.

Find A Few “Must Win Battles” – Some business plans try too hard. They plan almost every little detail or they are too ambitious based on the available resources that are put on the table by the supplier and retailer including money, people, store space and most importantly commitment. By focusing on 2-3 must win battles your business plan will be clear, concise and focus the energy of both the supplier and retailer where the real opportunity lies. You should be able to “elevator pitch” your business plan by using only a few key talking points.

Make Sure You Can Achieve January (and February, and March) – In sales, momentum is everything. When you achieve your monthly target it is just somehow easier to make next month’s target as well. My advice, don’t build a “quick start” plan where you try to achieve 30% of your annual volume in Q1. These almost never work, unless there is some sort of category seasonality that drives the volume. Instead, set realistic and achievable goals for each of the first three months and let your success carry you forward. If you miss your January target your life is going to be hell for the rest of the year!

A Plan Is Just A Plan – The CPG industry is a fast moving, innovation driven and shopper centric industry. Once your next budget year starts, you will have to adjust to the economic conditions, competitive activity and retail environment that can change on a daily basis. Stay alert, track results vs. your plan on an on-going basis and adjust to your changing reality quickly. If you wait too long you will not have time to recover from even the smallest hiccup.


Do you have any tips you would like to share with other KAMs who are immersed in business planning right now? Click on the comment button below to leave us your thoughts.


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