Dustin Ward - General Manager, Aleysian
One of the common pain points that we see in Medical Device companies is the management of their run rate business forecasting. A run rate business in of itself presents many unique challenges with far reaching impacts on the organization. From simple revenue forecasting all the way to the manufacturing plant floor, demand planning is a critical element of the overall business. Today more than ever, we are seeing the importance of supply chain management and its impact in today’s business world.
The list of challenges of course is long, and can be nuanced for each company, but as we reflect on what we consistently see in our customers, there are 3 challenges that are very common which we have consistently been able to help customers with.
What to capture in an opportunity
How to efficiently forecast demand
How do I measure actuals
As a general note, this topic can go in many different directions based on the exact specifications (CPQ, Integrations, Contract Agreements, Etc.). For purposes of this article, we are focused on solving the problems faced using the standard Sales Cloud functionality. The themes remain the same regardless of the type of licenses, but of course leveraging different tools can solve different business problems in different ways.
Best Practices to Manage your Run Rate business in Salesforce
What to Capture in an Opportunity?
This question often seems straightforward enough, but more often than not, we see companies that are a bit disjointed between what they want to track versus what they actually are tracking with regards to an Opportunity.
In the world of run rate business, it is very important to be very clear on what Opportunities are meant to be. Opportunities are for NEW BUSINESS! Opportunities should be defined as a net increase to your overall run rate business. In addition to capturing the opportunity at hand at the macro level, it's also important to go that extra mile and capture the exact information at the micro level - this is where the gold is!
The confusion we typically see here is companies that basically have one foot in and one foot out. They are trying to manage the recurring business with opportunities in addition to the run rate business, and then subsequently manage the opportunities differently which in the end just serves to make the data very difficult to work with.
One additional stumbling block seems to be in capturing the details of a deal in a way that is going to enable value add activities to occur downstream. In run rate sales, the “sale” can be measured in a variety of ways, and therein lies the difference. Products can be sold in all different shapes and sizes with different packaging and sku’s that, if left unplanned, can leave the downstream systems (Demand Planning) with a mess of data to try to reconcile. Getting to the point where you can capture the “eaches” of what is being sold is the golden ticket. Getting to that end state can take many different forms, but in the end, getting that information will unlock a slew of value add opportunities.
How to efficiently forecast demand?
The key word in this statement is “efficiently." All Medical Device companies ultimately have to answer the question of the demand for their products. More often than not, there is a spreadsheet or spreadsheets that touch many hands on a recurring basis before it gets to the final destination. And then it happens the next month, and the next month, and the next month.
Again, there are multiple forms that this can take, depending on the type of tools available. At its core, all forms start at the same place which is being able to accurately forecast the demand for new business at the correct level of granularity.
This in itself is a natural pain point that organizations face as many sales individuals are not the most enthusiastic about entering the details about the exact number of units a customer will be purchasing by month for the next year. The reality is that while this is not their favorite use of time, accurate entry and forecasting is worth its weight in gold with the savings from getting it right at the start, as opposed to spending 10x the amount of time trying to figure it out on the backend.
So does this just mean tough luck for Sales individuals? In short, No! The answer is not to force Sales to painstakingly enter in details, but rather build out a solution that works to allow for Sales people to do their job more effectively. Salesforce is an incredibly flexible tool in this regard. The standard architecture of Salesforce is already built to accommodate capturing of all the necessary data, the trick is customizing the system to allow the Sales team to be efficient in the tool. This also is not a reason to spend a ton of money on a “custom” solution. As mentioned, the tools are all there, Salesforce already has a data model that can deliver on this wonderfully, the trick is understanding “how” the Sales team sells, and working backwards to help them out. If you can make the operation efficient for the end user, they are infinitely more willing to provide the type of information that the company seeks.
New business is only half the equation in managing a run-rate business, what about the other half, recurring business? The other half of this equation can take an infinite amount of forms and I would say that they are all correct. Salesforce has tools to manage repeat business, Sales Agreements being one of them, but at its core, recurring business is largely driven by actuals and historicals which may or may not be in Salesforce.
Our advice would be to look at the business in two pieces, new business and recurring business, and to figure out how to marry those two pieces together. Salesforce Opportunities, as we mentioned, is the place for New Business, and as long as the data from your new business opportunities can be married up to the recurring business, you will have the whole picture. To take that one step further, what does it mean exactly to “marry” the two? In short, it means that the end metrics need to match. If recurring business is done monthly, and in units, the information coming from Salesforce should be able to match that with little to no manipulation.
How do I measure actuals?
Actuals in run rate businesses can be difficult for many different reasons. Oftentimes run rate business involves distributors and those distributors may or may not be good at tracking and reporting its own end user data. Furthermore, it can be very nuanced to attempt to attribute product sales increases to a single direct sale or effort. For all those reasons (and more), the best advice we have seen over time is to keep it simple and be focused on your desired metrics. Your data is only as good as the inputs and while that does not mean that you should give up, the most practical thing that you can do is look at improving your data quality. Define what are the key metrics that you wish to measure and work with your data teams and, if applicable, your partner management team to drive towards improving those key metrics.
All of that is good and fine, but what does that mean for your Salesforce instance? The answer here is a bit less defined as this answer can look very different based on the organization. The key consideration is what information is needed in Salesforce in order to drive your sales process. If you start there and work backwards, that should drive what you do next. Salesforce is most likely not your ERP system, and as such, don’t try to make it something that it is not. Maybe the information that is important for the sales team is last year sales for an account. If that is the case, make that data requirement as simple as possible. Yes, you could probably setup an integration with the ERP to duplicate all transactions to be able to run historical reporting, but maybe the path of least resistance is to take the relevant information from the data warehouse. That was a very specific example, but the point of it all is that the most important thing that a company can do is be very specific about exactly what is needed to run the business, and to figure out the most effective way to accomplish that. Half of the battle is defining what data is needed to run the business, after that has been defined, your efforts can be focused on value add activities instead of the approach to shoot and ask questions later.
Salesforce should be used for its strengths, and defining its role within the solution is crucial. This simple truth is simultaneously what makes Salesforce so effective in this equation. It is extremely flexible to be able to consume data and make it actionable for end users.
Run rate businesses are complex by nature, and the natural proclivity at times is to make it more complicated. Simplifying your data, KPI’s, sales tools and processes is really the key to effectively managing your run rate business.