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A Delicate Balance: Sales Growth and Production

(February 2012) posted on Tue Jan 24, 2012

"Much like the Chinese concept of yin and yang, the sales and production departments must exist side by side, harmoniously."

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By Marty McGhie

If, however, you develop a system that communicates timely information to your sales team informing them of what you can and what you cannot do in any given day or week, your sales team will do a much better job working with your customers to agreed-upon deadlines that will work for them and that the production team can achieve. For example, our company sends out a “ticker” every morning and every afternoon to the sales team outlining the standard turn times on each machine we operate. The sales reps can comfortably assume that a normal-sized job can be delivered in the time frame indicated on the ticker. Big jobs always need to be quoted on turn times. This frees up our sales staff to communicate immediately to the customer when their job can be shipped. The system doesn’t have to be sophisticated – any communication is better than keeping your sales reps guessing.

But be careful not to place all the responsibilities on the sales team. Your production team needs to develop a “can-do” attitude for this to work. If you allow your production team to create buffers of comfort when establishing timelines, you will inevitably extend customer deadlines out too far on a consistent basis, and you’ll ultimately lose business. Face it: We operate in a world where customers demand quick turn times on a regular basis. If your shop develops a reputation of being great on quality and even price, but very slow on turnaround times, that may very well end up being your epitaph. It’s critical that your production team works its hardest to achieve customer demands.

Profitability as a goal
When there’s an improper balance between sales and production, typically sales blames production and vice versa. Frankly, neither is to blame. This is management’s fault. While proper communication systems are important, the only way to achieve true balance among all your employees is to make sure everyone is working toward the same overall goal.

And that goal must be profitability. If your company’s goal is only sales growth, then that will probably run counter to what production’s responsibilities are. On the other hand, if your overall company goals are oriented around rework, cost of sales, production efficiencies, etc., then it lowers the incentive to sell.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have sales and production goals as metrics to manage. My point is that the overriding goal that drives your corporate strategy – including every employee in the company – needs to be all about profitability. If you can manage to get both sales and production to focus on selling and producing profitable sales, you have won the biggest part of the battle.

Marty McGhie is VP finance/operations of Ferrari Color, a digital-imaging center with Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Sacramento locations. The company offers high-quanlity large- and grand-format photo, inkjet, fabric, and UV printing.