Situations May Be More Complicated Than They Appear

By Stew Bishop, President and CEO    

When it comes to customer P&L management, what you think may not necessarily be true.

We are all susceptible to bias based on our previous experiences – whether that be in a different job role, brand we worked on, or relationships with a different retailer or individual buyer. The reason is simple….we are human.

In business, we like to think of ourselves as rational thinkers. The truth is, at times we are more irrational than we would like to admit, especially in negotiations and high pressure situations like a retailer headquarter call. It’s not uncommon to agree to do something unrealistic while knowing we should be pushing back. We might do this to avoid conflict, because we fear making a bad decision we’ll regret, or because we have miscalculated that we have more time before we have to make a tough decision.

That’s when the stress sets in – we are often too close to the situation to look at it from an objective point of view. This is when it is vitally important to step back and reassess, keeping in mind that brands need to embrace the philosophical and the practical if they hope to break through boxed thinking in such situations. Almost all problems have a calculable answer if one is willing to ask honest questions and be open to the responses. This process is what leads you to actionable solutions: decisions and executions that address your issue.

Some brands turn to the abundance of data and analytics as an excuse not to act; they wait for the obvious to emerge. But systems don’t solve problems and execute plans – people do. Business intelligence tools are just that – tools. They provide us with direction to enable us to act responsibly.

At CMG we understand complicated dilemmas. That’s why our role is to help CPG brands see the big picture, have courageous conversations, make smart decisions, and then execute upon an agreed strategy.

You may be thinking, “You don’t know my boss, my marketing team, my CEO, my buyer, etc. They are difficult. They are unreasonable.” Well, of course they are – they’re human, too. Your job is to identify the facts in any situation, be as objective and emphatic as possible, listen to your customers and colleagues, and guide stakeholders to a win-win solution backed by rigorous analysis.

If you or your firm don’t have a tangible discipline in regard to customer level P&L, now is the time to put that in place. It is truly key to creating a breakthrough for the issues we’ve discussed, especially considering price transparency and the light-speed pace of e-commerce.

Finally, be aware that any problems not solved during the inner workings of a manufacturer and retailer operations will end up at the buyer’s desk when you arrive. It’s up to you to be the catalyst for solutions – untangling the dysfunction is your function. This is how you can avoid adding to the natural tension we all face.

Stay tuned for my next blog post on ways to relieve the tension that builds up before, during and after a sales call and find compromise in the standoffs you may be having with your buyer(s). Contact CMG if you would like to discuss your specific business challenges.