Trade Promotion Management Change Management: How To Gain Sales Team Acceptance

So you have made the decision to leave spreadsheets behind, and you are moving to a trade promotion management software solution. What will it mean to your sales organization to get out of spreadsheet hell?

The whole issue of change management is a huge one that will impact the success or failure of the TPM project. Let’s look at the issue from a couple of perspectives – Sales, Supply Chain, Finance, Management and IT. Each of these departments may see a benefit, threat or a little of both.

Sales may see the departure from Excel as a potential increase in workload, and that there is a new piece of software that they will have to learn and manage. Many companies adopt the mantra that they want to see their sales teams “selling” rather than sitting behind a computer; yet they want those same sales people to evolve to be thoughtful, proactive, collaborative ‘business managers’. It is a paradox in that many Sales Managers don’t understand or fully realize the upstream and downstream implications (and importance) that their business plans have on the broader organization, and often times they view a TPM tool as just ‘too much work’:

Consider the following:

  • The sales account manager creates a new promotional plan in a TPM tool…what happens? The combination of base volume and incremental volume is captured in a common tool and format that helps drive the demand and production plan.
  • When the system calculates the planned spending and that planned spending gets assigned to a fund, the finance people suddenly have visibility to future promotional liabilities and the ability to real-time actualization.
  • The Marketing departments now have a repository to view customer plans, planned promotional activity, new distribution, and brand-specific spending. All of which are critical for profitably managing and building a brand!
  • Sales leadership now has a common view into their business by channel, customer and by brand, and they can easily identify gaps and proactively course-correct as necessary.

All of the above information is coming from the person who is closest to the account and should know more than others in the organization. However, because of increased visibility and change away from the ease of a spreadsheet; sales people may find the new TPM tool too invasive of their day to day activities.

The Demand Planning and Supply Chain group sees a tool that will give them a much more definable look at volume causality to help them know when and why volume will spike on each SKU (and at which account) well in advance of the order. They have a single source of information they can review prior to locking down their forecast. They will see a TPM tool as a significant benefit over spreadsheet hell, the lack of any visibility…or the “just trust me” approach.

Finance sees a solution to the question of ‘when’ and ‘how much’ money should I accrue to an SKU or brand for a given period or month rather than a “peanut butter” spread approach of spending to the GL. In the spreadsheet world, some SKU’s get too much spending accrued to them and other SKU’s don’t get enough funds accrual assigned. Insight into this sort of real time information will provide finance with a much better appraisal of the profit and loss situation for each SKU, brand, customer and channel, and they will surely find the new TPM system to be a benefit over the static spreadsheet approach.

Many companies manage their trade investment fund balances, based on variable rates, in spreadsheets; so the ability to see accumulated trade funds for all 150 spreadsheets is huge. Not to mention seeing what has been planned against those funds all prior to the events happening, or what has been spent against those funds as a result of the settlement process. Sales management has a difficult time trying to synthesize all of the trade investment accrual funds, the commitments and spending against those funds in a static spreadsheet environment. Therefore, sales management will see great benefit from a dynamic TPM system that provides them drill-down functionality and real-time insights into their volume and spending.

Of all groups, IT may have the most reservations when implementing a new TPM simulation tool. If the TPM installation is an on premise tool, then IT has a major stake in the maintenance of hardware, software, infrastructure and data. However, with a cloud-based solution such as CPGToolBox Trade Planner, most of that responsibility is shifted into the cloud, and IT is responsible for moving data into and out of their ERP systems to interface seamlessly with the tool. Certainly a cloud-based solution is less invasive and burdensome on the internal IT staff than an on premise solution, and generally the initial investment in resources, training and implementation are far less for a cloud-based tool.

So if the Sales Team and account managers are the critical lynchpins for accurate, timely, reliable customer shipment and planning data; how does the organization gain their acceptance and endorsement of the new TPM tool?

The following are a few considerations that might address the issue with your organization:

  1. Are you doing any trade planning at all? If you are not doing trade planning today, or if it is not happening on the back of a cocktail napkin, then any new software solution for Trade Promotion Management would require a change in organizational process and Sales behavior. A TPM tool is a terrific facilitator to help your organization review, change and perfect your promotion planning process, but senior management must clearly define the process, expectations and hold to those expectations throughout the whole change management process. While change and enhancement is a given, senior management cannot relent on the journey through the process of changing the organization.
  2. Is your current trade planning process too complex? Spreadsheets can accommodate all sorts of exceptions to the rule and different twists to the rule, but a software tool may not be able to accommodate all of those possible exceptions to the rule without being heavily customized; but that costs money and takes much more time to implement than a relatively out-of-the-box solution. Get the basic process grooved in before you start layering on all of the exceptions and accommodations for promotional contract variances. You may find out that all of those complex exceptions were not really needed in the first place.
  3. Find a champion for the TPM tool in the ranks of the sales team. That sales champion will be the best person to explain how the job can be made easier using the new TPM tool, and his/her peers will sit up and listen. Your sales champion will show the rest of the sales team how to use the TPM tool to shorten the planning process by cloning or copying previous promotional plans into the new planning period, how to use in joint business planning sessions with their customers, and other uses and short cuts they can learn.
  4. Plan many incremental training events and follow up training approaches. Don’t rely on just one massive training session to instill the new process and software tool into the sales organization. Utilize your first set of training efforts to insure the key steps in the process are fully learned i.e. deal with promotion planning first and then come back and deal with settlement training. Training should be considered an ‘evolution’ and not a ‘revolution’, with many iterative opportunities to enhance and improve the planning process both internally and externally. Use technology such as web meetings and “lunch & learn” sessions to cover areas that may require remedial training. Plan a brief training session at all sales meetings for the first year or so to insure cross pollination of ideas from power users to struggling users. Use videos of training sessions and actual point & click videos that are 3-5 minutes induration to provide for training on demand.
  5. Hold the course and don’t relent! Too often, sales management will not hold their ground on a well thought out process when the sales team chafes at the requirement to move off of spreadsheets and into a TPM tool. You must make the TPM tool become oxygen to the sales team, in other words, sales cannot do its job without using the TPM tool. There can be no exceptions or work around options to the TPM tool, and your organization’s success depends upon its successful implementation and ongoing management.

With commitment, preparedness, and a little ‘luck’ you WILL change the culture at your organization. Experience has shown that a TPM tool that provides process, visibility and accountability can drop as much as 10 points off your trade spending budget. This is money that can be reinvested to build brands, or dropped directly to the bottom line! Inefficient trade planning is costly, and getting the process under control can pay for the TPM tool in a matter of months. is a trade promotion management company that has built a cloud-base full function Trade Promotion Management solution on the platform. CPGToolBox Trade Planner will help your sales team manage fund allocation, accrual funds, trade promotion planning with predictive modeling, settlements and reporting. Please contact Rick Pensa at or call at 678-503-5001 Ext 301 or check out our website at .

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