Volatile demand wreaks havoc for all parts of a business organization, but nowhere more than in Supply Chain and Sales. An unexpected spike in orders, for example, has expensive consequences in labor and distribution costs. Similarly, inaccurate sales forecasts can lead to stock outages, lost sales, or excess inventory that must be sold at a discount. Sales and supply chain groups therefore devote significant energy to creating sophisticated planning and forecasting processes in an attempt to predict demand volatility—and tension can sometimes rise between those teams when things go awry.

Eisenhower famously said “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” This statement is true on a number of levels, but in business it is largely because plans can fail in the face of poor execution by teams. A sales forecast or plan depends completely on the ability of salespeople to (a) carry it out and (b) change tactics with changing conditions so that the goal of the plan is achieved. In recruiting and hiring sales people in this time of uncertain supply chains, the second characteristic is critical.

When sales executives work closely with their Supply Chain team, they can move beyond the non-optimal outcomes, discover the root causes of volatility, and ultimately begin to influence it. This approach brings tangible business benefits. With today’s challenges, that skill will be even more necessary given the increasing uncertainty in the supply chain environment.

Recruitment of the right sales talent that possesses these key qualities starts at the top with the senior-management team.  According to a McKinsey study, early 75% of respondents reported that their organization doesn’t reach alignment among internal functions while making key supply-chain and sales planning decisions. Even more shockingly, 38% reported that the CEO has limited to no involvement in driving these strategies.

When recruiting for transcendent sales talent that is able to plan collaboratively with supply chain teams and is agile enough to pivot when needed, there are five questions the C-Suite and hiring leaders should consider:

  • Is production capacity being developed in the right locations—both for today and the future?
  • Is the sales group doing all it can to make demand smooth and predictable?
  • Are customers offered the service levels they really need?
  • Is my marketing department calling for too many niche products that may be too costly to supply?
  • Are our purchasing and sourcing decisions being made with their supply chain implications in mind?

Poor collaboration and silo thinking have long thwarted the efforts of companies to get more from their sales and supply chain leadership and have placed a premium on cross-pollination between Sales and Supply Chain. In a future that promises complexity and uncertainty, solving this problem will change from a valuable performance enhancer to a competitive necessity.

Finding exceptional Sales and Supply Chain executives who can collaborate and are agile in adapting to change can be a difficult process and outsourcing the search for and vetting of candidates is likely to produce the best results. An effective recruiting partner will know how to identify the right combination of skill, adaptability and experience to drive results.


BrainWorks is a prominent boutique executive search firm offering a 30-year track record of successfully sourcing and placing top talent. We solve your hiring challenges by leveraging our vast network of highly skilled talent and our extensive, time-tested industry expertise. To learn more about how Brainworks can help you, contact us.

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