Tips for Selling the Supply Chain Afterlife

Back in the golden age of televangelists in the 1980s -- after Jimmy Carter's failed economic and global policies, I suppose we all wanted to believe in something -- the most successful TV preachers focused on selling "the afterlife". In other words, how good would your life be after writing that check or giving that credit card number to said Godly spokesman. Even though many of these efforts served as a wonderful comic foundation for Saturday Night Live, I think there's actually quite a bit we can learn from the more successful practitioners. After all, selling the afterlife is never easy (in religious terms, however, it's probably a bit less of a challenge than in a corporate setting). Brian Sommer, an old friend and colleague, loves to talk about selling the concept of the afterlife with software vendors and consultants. And I think he's right. But his thinking also matters just as much in a corporate setting as a software/solution sales one.

After all, selling the afterlife of supply chain programs can be essential to getting not just budget and approval for carrying out specific initiatives, but also getting other stakeholders and executives in the business bought into the need to make an investment successful. I liked what World Trade Magazine recently had to say on the subject in a recent article which notes that "to effectively sell the supply chain upward throughout the organization, managers need to sell the benefits of implementing supply chain improvements ... Winning the point, however, requires metrics to support the premise". For example, just as televangelists would show examples of those who were spontaneously healed just before soliciting donations from their TV audience, one "option is to propose initial projects maybe based upon case studies from similar companies or even from other industries".

Selling the afterlife is never easy. But it helps to be a convincing salesman (or saleswomen). In fact, some of the best supply chain and procurement practitioners I've met over the years are equally at home running a P&L (including revenue responsibility) as overseeing a company's spending, logistics and warehousing. Knowing what it feels like to sit at the other half of the table -- especially when you're actively engaged in selling an idea, a philosophy, versus making a concrete promise -- is key to positioning the afterlife effectively. Now don't get me started on the benefits of having a Tammy Faye by your side in addition, but it suffices to say that that can help as well. Metaphorically, of course ...

Jason Busch

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